Jury Service in the Australian Capital Territory
This webpage is designed to inform you about jury duty in the ACT. Current jurors can find specific information relating to their pool on the Current Pool Information webpage.
Jury Handbook - a summary of the main points is provided below.
The purpose of juries
A jury is the means by which the people play a direct part in the application of the law. In a criminal trial, the jury ascertains the facts on the basis of the evidence produced at trial and determines whether the accused is guilty of the crime as charged.
Jury service is an integral part of the judicial procedure of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It is the link between the community and the criminal justice system - jury members are the representatives of the community in the decision making process.
Who Can be a Juror
A person whose name is on the roll of electors for the ACT is liable to serve as a juror, unless he or she is a disqualified person or is exempt from serving as a juror.
Schedule 2 of the Juries Regulations 2018 lists those categories of person who are disqualified from jury service, exempt from jury service or able to seek exemption from jury service.
How is a Jury Chosen
Selecting a jury for a trial is a two stage process. First, some weeks before the trial a jury pool is selected from the ACT electoral roll. This is done by a computer program which picks names randomly, consistent with the legal requirements of section 24(3) of the Juries Act 1967. Secondly, on the first day of the trial, a jury panel is selected from the jury pool and the jury for the trial is chosen from that panel. The process for that selection is described below.
The First Phase of Jury Selection – The Jury Panel is Summoned
Each person whose name is selected from the ACT electoral roll to be on the jury pool is served with a jury summons. The jury summons lists the time, date and location for the person to attend Court. It must be served at least 7 days before the time specified for jury duty. In practice the first summoning will take place approximately 4 weeks before the scheduled attendance date. The summons has a detachable section which the person named in the summons must return acknowledging receipt.
Disqualification and Exemption
A number of documents are sent out with the jury summons. For example information on persons who are disqualified, ineligible or who can apply to be exempted from jury service is included. A person summoned for jury duty can also be excused if the Sheriff is satisfied that this is necessary after considering the person’s circumstances. Reasons for this might be illness or pregnancy; that the potential juror has the care of young children, the elderly or ill persons; or other circumstances of sufficient importance or urgency. In these cases the Sheriff may either excuse the person, or postpone the person’s jury service.
Applying for Exemption or Postponement
Those wishing to seek an exemption or postpone their jury service must complete a Jury Service Declaration. This form is included in the package accompanying the summons. The completed declaration should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to ACT Supreme Court, Jury Management Unit, PO Box 1548, Canberra City, ACT 2601. You can also lodge documents in person at the Ground Floor, ACT Courts Precinct. Documents should be sent so that the statutory declaration arrives at least four business days before the attendance date in the summons.
The Jury Service Declaration that you send should contain sufficient information to enable a decision to be made without further correspondence. Supporting documentation (e.g. medical certificate or travel bookings) must be attached to the statutory declaration.
Response to Your Application
The Sheriff responds to requests for postponement or exemption in writing. People submitting applications should not assume that the application has been approved. If you have not received a response by the date specified in your summons, you must attend Court.
Anyone dissatisfied with the decision of the Sheriff may apply to the Judge, usually on the day of the trial, to be excused from further attendance. Again, this application is made initially by statutory declaration. The Judge may require the person to make an oral application in Court.
Responsibility to Attend
If a person has been summoned, and has not received a written notice excusing them from attending, the person must attend Court in accordance with the summons. Failure to do so can render the person liable to a penalty under the Juries Act 1967 (up to $1500). It is also an offence for a person who attends in accordance with a jury summons or who is a juror to leave the Court premises before being discharged or excused by a Judge or the Sheriff unless permitted to do so by the Sheriff.
Reasonable Support for Jurors
If a person does not wish to apply for exemption, even though they meet the requirements, a Judge may decide the person is unable to properly discharge the duties of a juror because the person –
- Has an insufficient understanding of the English language; or
- Is suffering from a mental or physical disability.
In making their decision, the Judge must consider if support for the person would assist them performing the duties of a juror, and if so, give a direction that support be given. Support may include an interpreter, an Auslan interpreter, an assistance animal, disability aid or support person.
If a judge is not satisfied that support would assist the person, the Judge will discharge he person from their jury summons. The Judge can include a range of actor such as undue burden on court resources, facilities and timeframes.
Jury duty, while it is a vital community task which can be rewarding for those who do it, may cause some disruption to a person’s normal life. To assist people to fulfil their jury obligations, the National Employment Standards, which have the force of law, say that an employer has to grant a person leave to attend to jury duty. This also applies to people who do not have ‘leave’ as such – for example casuals.
Your obligation to your employer is to advise them as soon as possible of your absence from work because of jury duty. After you have performed jury service, you will receive a Certificate of Attendance, which can provide evidence to your employer about issues such as dates that you attended and amounts you have been paid.
Payment for Jury Duty
Payments that are made in respect of jury duty are set out in the current Juries (Payment) Determination. Payments may be made some weeks after your jury attendance has finished.
Payments specified in the Determination include a travel and parking allowance for each day that you are required to attend Court; a payment for attending Court for jury pool/panel members; and a daily payment for each day of service for those who serve on a jury.
Public servants should receive their normal salary whilst on jury duty. For private sector employees other than casuals, the employer is required by the National Employment Standards to make up the difference between your jury payments and your normal basic pay for the first 10 days of jury service. In any case, it is wise to check your HR section to find out what arrangements are in place for people on jury service. To ensure that any payments due to you in respect of your jury duty can be processed smoothly, fill out and return as soon as possible the Direct Deposit Form, sent to you with your summons. At the latest, bring it with you when you first attend Court.
Attending Court - Sometimes There are Delays
Court listings can occasionally change between the issue of the summons to a person and the day that the person is required to attend - for example, a previous trial may not have finished or there may have been some other unforeseen delay. Before attending Court, jury panel members are strongly advised to check that there has been no change by phoning the Jury Pool Recorded Message on (02) 6207 1792 after 5 p.m. on the day before they are due to attend or alternatively check this website under Jury Service – Current Pool Information.
While the jury selection process usually occurs in the morning, on rare occasions this is also delayed. This may lead to jurors being asked to return later in the day or on another occasion. In such circumstances, Sheriff's Officers will keep jury pool members advised as updates become available.
The time that a person is required to attend Court on the first day is specified in the summons (usually 8.30 am). It is advisable to call the Jury Pool Recorded Message on (02) 6207 1792 each evening after 5 o’clock to confirm when the jury pool is next required to attend.
During a trial, a morning tea break is usually taken at about 11:15 am and lunch from 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm. The Court normally adjourns by 4:15 pm, and jurors can then leave the Court precincts until the next sitting day. However, Court sitting times may vary from time to time.
When the jury has retired to consider its verdict the jury members may have to stay beyond 4.15pm. On very rare occasions, when a verdict has not been reached at night, the Judge can order the jury to remain together overnight in suitable accommodation. If this occurs, accommodation arrangements are made by Sheriff's Officers who will also, if necessary, collect jurors' personal effects. Sheriff's Officers would stay with the jurors overnight.
On occasion, juries have also been required to deliberate on weekends.
How to Get to Court
The court precinct is about five minutes’ walk from the Civic bus interchange. If you are driving you are strongly advised to arrange for all day parking. There is a good chance that you will not be able to leave the Court during the day, and any parking fine will be your own responsibility.
The closest all day parking option is opposite the City Police Station - Section 63 Car Park. Enter at the lights on the corner of London Circuit and Gordon Street. The parking fee is payable by coins or credit/debit cards (no notes). If you intend to pay by coins, please be aware that early bird parking (before 10am) is $16.00 otherwise the all-day fee is at least $20.00. Payment can also be made via an Apple or Android app (Paybyphone). Registration for this service is required. All day parking stations are also available in Allsop Street and Marcus Clarke Street.
There is also a car park situated in front of the ACT Magistrates Court building (access off Knowles Place). Please note that this is only for short stay parking – up to 4 hours.
What You Should Bring (and not Bring) to Court
To enter the Court buildings you need to go through a security screening. You will not be able to bring any items deemed dangerous (this can include any sharp items such as scissors) into the Court buildings.
You should ensure that you bring photographic identification (eg a driver's licence, proof of age card, current passport) to confirm that you are the person named in the summons.
You generally will not be required to bring lunch with you. If you are selected to serve on a jury lunch will be provided. If the trial judge allows you to leave for lunch (this is not a regular occurrence) you will be provided a meal allowance, to be paid at a later date.
Mobile phones, lap top computers and tablets, or similar devices, are not allowed in the jury room and must be surrendered to a Sheriff's Officer, if you are selected for the jury.
What Happens When You Arrive at Court
When attending for jury service, you should go to the front entrance of the Supreme Court or Magistrates Court (as advised on your summons) on Knowles Place, Canberra City, off London Circuit and behind the City Police Station, and proceed through the security screening as soon as possible. You should refrain from speaking to persons in or around the precincts of the Court - they could be participants in the trial that you have been summoned to.
A Sheriff’s Officer will direct you to a room where your name will be checked off the list of those summoned. At that stage you will be given a juror number and you will be placed on a jury panel. You must remember this number until the jury selection process is finalised. You will then be asked to wait in the jury panel room with the other members of the jury panel.
This is the appropriate time for a person who wishes to make an application to be excused, and who has not already done so, to advise a Sheriff’s Officer. This also applies to a person who has not yet been advised of the result of an application that they lodged previously.
The Second Phase of Jury Selection - In the Courtroom
Members of the jury panel are taken into Court by a Sheriff's Officer prior to the commencement of the trial.
The accused is in Court during jury selection. He or she is usually arraigned (charged) in the presence of the panel summoned – the Associate to the Judge reads out the charges. The names of witnesses to be called are then read out.
Members of the jury panel then have the opportunity to state whether they recognise the accused, know any of the witnesses or have any other reason which may make it difficult for them to serve impartially on the jury in that particular trial.
The trial Judge will hear applications from those persons who have indicated that they wish to be excused or who indicate that they have prior knowledge of the matter to be tried or of any of the participants. The accused remains in the courtroom while the applications are being heard. Applications are made orally or in writing. The person is called to the witness box and sworn or affirmed and then explains to the Judge the reason why he or she seeks to be excused. The Judge then decides whether that person should be excused.
Selection of Jury
Cards containing the numbers of the prospective jurors, less those who have been excused by the Judge or Sheriff, are placed in a ballot box. The Associate to the Judge then picks the cards randomly from the box to select people to enter the jury box. The person’s number only is called, so that individual jury members are anonymous in the Court.
As each person moves to the jury box, their selection as a juror may be challenged by the accused personally or by his or her legal representative. The Crown also has the right to challenge and also to ask that a person stand aside until all cards have been drawn from the ballot box.
A certain number of potential jurors can be challenged without any cause or explanation. A person who is challenged simply returns to their seat. When the required number of people has entered the jury box without being challenged, the jury is sworn in on oath or affirmation. This may be done individually or as a group.
The remaining members of the panel, including those who have resumed their seats after being challenged, are placed back in the jury pool. You will be advised if you are required again or if you are excused from your summons.
Twelve person juries are used in the determination of all criminal matters. In some cases, however, an expanded jury, consisting of from 13 up to 16 jurors may be empanelled. When a jury consisting of more than 12 jurors is about to retire to consider its verdict, the number of jurors will be reduced to 12, by another random selection process undertaken by ballot.
Election of Foreperson
When the jury has been empanelled and sworn, the trial Judge will usually instruct the members to elect a foreperson. If during the trial a juror requires clarification of a particular point, the foreperson will ask the trial Judge.
Like any group of people who meet for the purpose of determining a matter, solving a problem or reaching a decision, the members of a jury must approach their task in a positive and organised manner. Jurors are expected to apply their common sense and to be impartial.
Remember that the jury deliberating process is a decision-making process whose success rests largely with the participants. Each juror must be permitted to enter into discussion enthusiastically, and each person's right to express a view must be respected.
Each jury member is of equal importance. It is essential that each member interacts with and respects the opinion of other jurors. Each member should listen to the others and be permitted to have their say.
Jury deliberations and jury identities are confidential. It is an offence for a person to disclose particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced and votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations if the person is aware that this disclosure will or might result in the information being published (including on social media platforms).
It is also an offence for a person to disclose information that identifies, or is likely to identify, a person as a juror in particular proceedings, either in the past or present.
In Case of Illness
If a juror becomes ill overnight and consequently cannot attend court, the juror should inform the Sheriff's Office as soon as possible by contacting the office on (02) 6207 1252 or emailing email@example.com. A medical certificate will be required with a statutory declaration outlining the juror’s reason/s for non-attendance.
Further detailed information is contained in the ACT Supreme Court Jury Handbook.
If, when you attend court for jury duty, you are uncertain of something or need help, the Sheriff's Officers are there to assist you. The Sheriff’s Office is currently on the Ground Floor of the Supreme Court Building.
If you require further assistance concerning jury service prior to coming to Court, please use the following contacts:
The Jury Management Unit
ACT Magistrates Court Building
Phone: (02) 6207 1252 or (02) 6205 1642
Fax: (02) 6207 4857
Jury Panel Recorded Message Service: (02) 6207 1792