COVID-19 and A panel of people selected from the general public to decide whether an accused in a criminal case is guilty or not guilty, or to decide questions of fact and the amount to be awarded as damages in civil cases. Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence.
Jury trials have resumed in Melbourne and most Victorian regional An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. locations and are operating in line with COVIDSafe measures.
Extensive work has been undertaken to ensure that jury trials can be conducted safely. A list of the measures implemented to keep jurors save is available at https://www.juriesvictoria.vic.gov.au/juror-safety-during-covid-19.
Jurors who are unwell or who are required to self-isolate under public health rules must phone the Jury Commissioner’s office. Any other questions or concerns can be emailed to the Jury Commissioner. (For the Jury Commissioner’s contact details, see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter.)
Key jury related legislation
Jury service in Victoria is governed by the Juries A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 2000 (Vic) (‘Juries Act’). All references to Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute. in this section refer to the Juries Act unless otherwise stated.
Kinds of jury service
Criminal juries consist of 12 people who decide whether a person on trial in the County or Supreme Courts is guilty or not guilty. When a criminal trial is expected to be lengthy, there can be up to 15 people on the jury. If necessary, at the end of the trial, and before the jury retires to consider its verdict, the jury is reduced by ballot to 12 people.
Civil juries determine what compensation or A court order for money to be paid to someone to compensate them for a loss suffered as a result of a civil wrong or breach of contract. For example, a person who caused a serious permanent injury to another person can be ordered by the court to pay damages that compensate the injured person for their loss of income from being unable to work. See also aggravated damages; compensatory damages; general damages; liquidated damages; nominal damages; special damages. (if any) a person should receive. A civil jury consists of six people, but can (in some cases) be increased to eight people.
For detailed information about jury service, visit the Juries Victoria website (www.juriesvictoria.vic.gov.au).
Who can serve on a jury?
Every person aged 18 years or above who is enrolled to vote for the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council of Victoria (i.e. the Victorian Government) can serve on a jury in Victoria.
This is unless a person is:
- disqualified from jury service; or
- ineligible for jury service (s 5).
Who is disqualified from jury service?
People who are disqualified from jury service are set out in the Juries Act (sch 1) and include those who:
- within the past two years have been sentenced for an A criminal act prohibited by state or commonwealth criminal law. An offence is either a summary offence (minor) or an indictable offence (serious). by a court;
- within the past two years have been convicted or found guilty of an offence and placed on an undertaking to the court;
- at any time have been convicted of one or more indictable offences and sentenced to a total of three years or more in prison;
- within the past five years have been in prison for less than three months; or served an A sentence that is served in the community rather than in jail. Intensive correction orders have very strict conditions attached to them., In a criminal matter, an adjournment without conviction. The sentence may be partially or wholly suspended, or a combined custody and treatment order. or sentence at a youth training centre; or served a A sentencing order that can be made by a court instead of ordering a prison term. The person sentenced must do unpaid or educational work in the community, supervised by the Office of Corrections. or a community corrections order;
- within the past 10 years have been in prison for more than three months (excluding any imprisonment for failure to pay a fine) or have been on To free a prisoner after they have served a minimum term, but before the end of their sentence. While on parole the person may be subject to conditions such as having to report regularly to police.;
- are on The procedure that allows a person who has been charged with an offence to be released from police control or prison until the hearing of the case. Courts can add conditions to bail. For example, they can require that people released on bail promise to come to the court on a set date, or put up an amount of money that they cannot get back if they do not appear as they promised. See also undertaking. for an A serious crime that is generally heard before a judge and jury in the County Court or the Supreme Court a criminal case. Examples of indictable offences include assault and armed robbery.;
- are remanded in Lawful control over a person which prevents them leaving. A person under arrest is in police custody and is not free to go. A person in prison is serving a custodial sentence that keeps them confined to the prison grounds.;
- are undischarged bankrupts.
Who is ineligible for jury service?
People who are ineligible for jury service are set out in the Juries Act (sch 2) and include those who are, or who in the past 10 years have been:
- a judge, magistrate or holder of a judicial office;
- a An official, usually based at a police station, who is not a judge or magistrate but has the same power as judges and magistrates to grant or refuse bail to an accused person.;
- admitted to legal practice as an Australian lawyer;
- a member of the police force;
- an A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government departments and statutory authorities. A specialised ombudsman resolves consumer complaints in a particular industry, for example the banking ombudsman for the banking industry. See also statutory authority. or an employee of an ombudsman.
Also included as ineligible under schedule 2 of the Juries Act are people who:
- are employed in connection with a legal practice by a person admitted to practice law as
an Australian lawyer;
- have a physical disability that prevents them from performing jury service duties;
- are patients within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 2014 (Vic);
- have an intellectual disability within the meaning of the Disability Act 2006 (Vic);
- are under a guardianship or administration order;
- are unable to communicate in, or adequately understand, English.
Who can be excused from jury service?
If a person is liable for jury service (that is, they are a voter who is not disqualified or ineligible) then they may apply to be temporarily or permanently excused from jury service for a good reason (ss 8, 9). The Juries Commissioner makes this decision (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).
The circumstances that amount to good reasons to be excused from jury service are set out in the Juries Act and include:
- illness or poor health;
- being vulnerable to the consequences of COVID-19;
- too long a distance to travel to jury service (i.e. over 50 km if the court is in Melbourne, or over 60 km if the court is outside of Melbourne);
- substantial hardship to the person if made to attend jury service;
- substantial inconvenience to the public if the person is made to attend jury service;
- care of dependants where alternative care is not reasonably available;
- advanced age.
To get excused from jury service, a person must prove to the Juries Commissioner that they have a good reason by giving Material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. It can include what witnesses say as well as documents and other objects. under A person’s promise when they swear to tell the truth in court, or when signing an affidavit. A person taking an oath places one hand on the Bible or other holy book to demonstrate how seriously they take their promise. See also affirmation. (either oral or by A document that presents written evidence in a court case, setting out what a witness says is true. The witness must swear that it is true and correct in front of an authorised official. This can be done on oath or by affirmation. The person in whose name the document is sworn is called the deponent.), or by supplying a A written statement of facts that meet statutory requirements by being signed and declared to be true before an official authorised to take declarations., or by other means Treated by the law as if something is the case, even if that is not the reality. For example, children may be deemed to have the same home as their parents, whether they actually live there or not. Or a person may be deemed to have given their consent to something if they hear about it and do not object. Compare rebuttable. appropriate by the commissioner (ss 8(4), 9(5)). If the commissioner refuses an application to be excused from or defer jury service, the commissioner must notify the applicant of the decision.
If a person is unhappy with the commissioner’s decision, they can The review of the decision of a lower court by a higher court. If an appeal is successful, the higher court can change the lower court’s decision. to the commissioner. An appeal must be lodged within 14 days of receiving the commissioner’s notification of their decision, or before the date on which jury service begins (whichever is sooner). The Supreme or County Court decides the appeal.
A court can excuse a person from jury service (s 11) and decide that a person not perform jury service if this is just and reasonable (s 12).
Procedure for selecting jurors
The Supreme Court and the County Court of Victoria hear cases in Melbourne and also in Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Mildura, Sale, Shepparton, Wangaratta and Warrnambool. The County Court can also sit in Bairnsdale, Kerang and Morwell. The electoral district(s) around each of these towns is the jury district for that town, so people enrolled in that jury district are liable to serve as jurors in cases heard in that town (s 18).
At least every 12 months the Juries Commissioner must notify the Electoral Commissioner of the number of people that A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. be required for jury service in a jury district. The Electoral Commissioner then randomly selects people who are qualified and liable for jury service in that district and sends the roll to the Juries Commissioner. A person selected for the jury roll is not eligible to be selected again for at least 12 months (s 19).
After receiving the jury roll from the Electoral Commissioner, the Juries Commissioner sends a questionnaire to either all the people, or the necessary number of people, on the jury roll (s 20). A person receiving a questionnaire has 14 days to fill it out and send it back unless the Juries Commissioner gives a longer time. If a person fails to send the questionnaire back then they remain liable for jury service. It is an offence to fail to answer a question or give false or misleading information, with a maximum penalty of 30 pu or three months imprisonment (s 68). The purpose of the questionnaire is for the Juries Commissioner to work out who is qualified and liable for jury service.
A formal document issued by a court which says someone must appear in court on the date stated in the document. See also service; writ. to attend jury service
From the lists of people liable for jury service, panels of people are chosen at random for each jury district and these people are sent a summons to attend jury service. The summons must be served at least 10 days before the A member of a jury. is to attend court (s 27).
If for some reason a person cannot attend jury service as demanded by the summons, they should immediately contact the Juries Commissioner. It may be that a person can be excused or have their jury service deferred if they have a good reason (see ‘Who can be excused from jury service?’, above).
It is an offence not to attend jury service after receiving a summons; the maximum penalty is 30 pu or three months imprisonment (s 71).
If a person is empanelled (i.e. chosen for a jury) it is an offence to fail to attend court without a reasonable excuse (s 71). The maximum penalty is 60 pu or six months imprisonment.
Payment for jury service
Jurors are paid for each day’s attendance, whether or not they serve on a jury (s 51). The payment is at a prescribed rate under the Juries (Fees, Remuneration and Allowances) Regulations 2001 (Vic), which is currently $40 a day for the first six days, and $80 a day for each day thereafter. If a trial lasts more than a year, the payment rises to $160 per day. People summoned for jury service should bring their summons with them, as this is the authority to get paid.
If a person is an employee, they are entitled to be reimbursed by their employer the difference between the amount paid by the court and the amount they could reasonably expect to have received from their employer if they had not been performing jury service (s 52). An employee must notify (in writing) their employer as soon as possible of the date of their jury service, the duration of the jury service, and the amount of income to be reimbursed by the employer (s 53).
Employers should note that it is an offence, carrying hefty penalties, to terminate or threaten to terminate the employment of an employee, or otherwise prejudice the position of an employee, because that employee attends jury service (ss 76, 83).
Selection for a jury
People summoned for jury service go into a jury ‘pool’. When a jury is required for a trial, the jury pool supervisor selects a group of jurors (called a ‘panel’) for the trial. The panel is assembled in the jury pool room where the jurors are shown a video of the final step in the jury selection process (called ‘empanelment’). This makes sure that prospective jurors are familiar with the procedure before entering a court for empanelment.
The panel of jurors is then taken to a court that requires a jury. One of the judge’s staff announces that if your name, or identifying number, and occupation are called, you must walk in front of the A person who has been charged with a crime. Also known as a defendant. person in the dock, and then to the jury box, unless you hear the accused call ‘challenge’. The judge’s associate calls out the name, or identifying number, and occupation of each panel member (s 36).
The (1) A defendant’s response to the legal claims made against them in court by a prosecutor or plaintiff. (2) A lawful excuse for conduct: for example, causing minor injuries to someone while saving them from certain death. (3) ‘The defence’ is also a way of referring to the defendant and their legal team. can challenge jurors, and the The party presenting evidence in court on behalf of the state or Commonwealth government against a person accused of committing a crime. Also called the Crown. can ask jurors to be stood aside. If there is one accused person, the defence can challenge three jurors; if there are two or more accused people, the defence can challenge two jurors per accused person (e.g. if there are two accused people, the defence can challenge four jurors). Likewise, the prosecution can stand aside three jurors if there is one accused person; if there are two or more accused people, the prosecution can stand aside two jurors for each accused person. The jurors who are not challenged or stood aside are on the jury for that trial (s 36(2)).
Role of the jury
The jury’s role is to decide the case based on the evidence presented during the trial. Evidence may be submitted as oral evidence from witnesses, or physical evidence (i.e. exhibits). The judge tells (or ‘directs’) the jury everything it needs to know about the law to be applied in the case. The jury:
- decide the facts of a case;
- apply the law as the judge directs;
- bring in a verdict.
It is important that the facts of a case are discussed only with other members of the jury, and not with friends and family. All discussions should only take place inside the jury room. If assistance or clarification is required, jurors can ask the judge through the foreperson. It is a criminal offence to conduct any research of your own (i.e. you must not search the internet for any matter associated with the case), go to a scene of an offence, conduct any experiment, or request any other person to make enquiries (s 78A).
Jurors are not permitted to discuss any facts or legal issues with the judge’s staff, who can only assist jurors with administrative matters (e.g. refreshments in the jury room). Also, jurors are forbidden from disclosing the identity of another juror, or the details of any jury discussions about the case. This also applies after a trial is finished. Jurors should report anyone who seeks to talk to them after a trial to the Juries Commissioner (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter).
More information for jurors
For more information about being a juror, visit www.juriesvictoria.vic.gov.au. Also, after a trial, if jurors are upset or distressed by the experience of having been a juror, they may contact the Juror Support Program (see ‘Contacts’ at the end of this chapter) to arrange free confidential counselling.