“A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up” (Harper Lee). The Jury system lies at the heart of the Scottish court system and approximately 30% of us will serve as a juror at some point in our lives. The idea is an ancient one, that a person ought to be judged by their peers, by “the man on the bus”. That judgement shouldn’t come from an aristocrat or nobleman but from people in similar circumstances to the accused or pursuer. Further, whilst one person may be mistaken the judgement of the majority is less likely to be flawed. The ancient Romans and Greeks used juries and they still uphold justice in Scotland today and keep the legal system Safe and Sound. They are used in serious criminal cases and high value civil cases. Criminal cases have a jury of Fifteen and civil cases have a jury of 12 people.
Whilst you don’t require an MTV award, as Harper Lee suggests, not just anyone can be a juror. 30 people over the age of 18 years old, listed on the electoral register, and residing in the UK for more than 5 years will be balloted. Of those balloted some will be exempt.
There are many jokes about avoiding jury duty. Many try to Shake it off. Lawyers and police officers are excluded on the basis they are learned in the law and so not appropriate on the basis they are not the “man on the bus”. People convicted of a crime are disqualified. MPs, MSPs, religious ministers, full-time serving members of the armed forces and people who are over 70 can legitimately apply to be excused.
What about Pop Stars? Taylor Swift was cited for Jury duty in Nashville USA. Whilst some may argue she is far removed from the man on the bus, wealth is not an exclusion. She was however excused on the basis that she may have a conflict of interest. There are many checks to ensure that the jurors are “sound” and can hear cases without bias.
Collectively jurors and juries up and down the country keep the spotlight on judges. They are a cross check on the judiciary who, whilst extremely learned in the law are often criticised as being slightly removed from the hardships of the ordinary man. Judges lead very different lives to the average pursuer and therefore it is important that juries with their Eyes Open keep a check on the awards being made Forever and Always. It is important that the law is applied correctly in each case but that law is shaped by public opinion and jurors ensure that this is heard. We have a long and proud history of taking cases to juries and pushing the boundaries in civil cases. Juries can have a greater understanding, in some cases, of how an accident would have impacted a person’s life and what an appropriate award of compensation ought to be. In the last decade juries have had a significant impact on the level of compensation being awarded and the serve an important function for judges to ensure they are in line with public opinion as well as the law.
Hopefully Taylor will get a second chance to fulfil her Wildest Dreams and serve on a jury with Style.