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I've received a jury summons, what happens next?
Your jury summons has landed on the doormat. You've never been through this process before and you're in a bit of a panic.
There's no need to worry though, assistance is here!
There's not a lot you can do to avoid jury service, as your summons is the result of a random search of the electoral register.
Just because you receive a summons doesn't necessarily mean you will serve on a jury as more people are called than are actually needed. With your summons will be a form to return which assesses your eligibility - it's very difficult to prove you aren't eligible.
When you arrive at court you will be shown to a waiting room with the rest of the potential jurors, where 15 people will be selected at random and shown into the courtroom. Once in the courtroom the names of 12 people will be called out. If you hear your name you say 'Yes' and take your place in the jury box. Before you are officially sworn in, the lawyers can challenge your choice as a juror. This isn't anything to worry about and challenges are rare.
When you are sworn in you are asked to take an oath while holding the holy book of your religion. If you don't practice any religion you can affirm, which has equal meaning to an oath. You may be a member of the jury on more than one trial, and jury service usually lasts up to 10 days but can last longer. The court will explain how you can claim certain expenses while you are serving on a jury.
The trial starts when the clerk reads the charges against the defendant to the court. The prosecution opens the case against the defendant with an opening statement, where they explain to you what it intends to prove. The prosecution will then call witnesses to testify and you make take notes. When the prosecution 'rests' its case, the defence may offer witnesses. When both sides have finished presenting their cases they make their closing speeches and the judge will then sum up the facts of the trial. The judge will also explain your duties as a juror as well as facts about the law that applies to the case. They will also ask the members of the jury to elect a foreman or woman. Once the summing up is over you will be sent to the jury room to consider your verdict.
Inside the jury room you can have your notes and any evidence that was presented during the case. You must only talk to members of the jury about reaching a verdict and you must not under any circumstances talk about the case to anyone else. This law applies after the jury has reached a verdict and the case is over.
The jury should come to a verdict based on the evidence presented in court and all members should agree. There's no particular time limit on how long jury deliberations should take. If the whole jury cannot reach what's called a unanimous verdict, then the judge may ask for a majority verdict, where most but not all of the jury agree. When a verdict has been reached, the whole jury will return to the courtroom and the foreperson will be asked if a verdict has been reached. The court clerk will then ask the foreperson a very specific question. If you find the defendant not guilty then they will be free to leave. If you find the defendant guilty then the judge will decide upon the sentence.