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Jury Duty

This brief article discusses jury duty in NSW.  Serving on a jury is a duty that is required by law in Australia.  Juries are utilised to ensure that legal verdicts for trials are impartial and reflect community standards of behaviour.

The Role of a Jury

The role of a jury is to hear and determine serious criminal matters, as well as determine civil matters involving large monetary claims.  These cases are heard in both the NSW District Court and NSW Supreme Court.  Juries can also be used in coronial inquests in the NSW Coroners Court. In NSW, juries in criminal trials often consist of 12 jurors, however this can increase to 15 if a trial is expected to last longer than three months. 

Each year, around 200,000 potential jurors are randomly selected from the NSW electoral roll and placed on the jury roll.  Approximately 150,000 on the roll are sent a jury summons notice at some stage throughout the year. If you receive this notice, you are required to attend court, where you may be selected as a juror for a specific trial.  Out of this group, only 9,000 people a year are selected to serve on jury panels for specific trials.  Only one in ten people who are sent a jury summons actually end up serving on a jury panel. 

Can I Get Out Of Jury Duty?

A person can apply to the Sheriff’s Office to be excused from jury duty, either temporarily or permanently. There are several reasons listed under the Jury Amendment Act 2010, which states that you may have a ‘good cause’ to be excused if: 

  • jury service would cause undue hardship or serious inconvenience to you or your family; or
  • you have a disability that makes you unsuitable or incapable of effectively serving as a juror; or
  • you have a permanent mental or physical impairment that makes you incapable of doing jury service, or that would injure your health if you were to do jury service; or
  • there is a conflict of interest or some other knowledge, acquaintance, or friendship that you have, which may result in you being perceived as lacking impartiality as a juror.

The Sheriff may also consider excusing you in other circumstances, including if you:

  • are a sole trader or contractor; or
  • are a carer for children, an ill person, or a person with a disability, and are unable to make alternate care arrangements; or
  • are in an advanced stage of pregnancy and/or having medical difficulties during your pregnancy; or
  • have a mental or physical impairment that would make jury duty difficult; or
  • are an emergency service operational employee; or
  • are enrolled in studies and you need to attend lectures or exams; or
  • have a pre-booked holiday or other travel commitments; or
  • have difficulty accessing transport to court, including reliable public transport; or
  • are unable to read and understand English.

One of the primary reasons young adults cannot attend jury, particularly lengthy trials, is due to educational obligations. These involve commitments that cannot be postponed or rescheduled such as being enrolled in a full-time course at a university or any other educational institution. 

To be granted an exemption, an individual must provide evidence of their educational commitment, such as a letter from the institution or proof of their examination or class timetable. 

Automatic Exemptions 

Some individuals are automatically exempt from being selected for jury duty.  This includes, those over 75 yrs, medical practitioners, clergymen, dentists, those who work in parliament or courts, emergency service workers and Australian Legal Practitioners. 

In addition, persons currently serving a prison sentence and anyone who has been found guilty of a serious offence such as some sexual offences, or a terrorism offence are excluded.

For a full list of individuals and professions excluded from jury duty, please see the  NSW Government Communities and Justice web page. 

What Happens If I Don’t Attend?

If you don’t attend jury duty when you have been summoned, you will be sent a letter asking you to explain why you were absent.  If your explanation is not accepted, you may be fined up to $2,200. 

If you have received a summons to attend court for jury service,  you must apply to be excused, either  online, by email or by post.  This must be done at least one week prior to the summons date.  You may also apply in person on the day you report to court for jury service.

Do I Have To Attend If I Have Work?

Unfortunately, work obligations are generally not a sufficient reason to be excused from jury service. There are exceptions to this, for instance if you are a sole trader, and jury duty would cause undue financial hardship.  It is important to note that the financial hardship must be significant, not just a minor inconvenience and evidence must be provided to support a claim of financial hardship.  This can include financial statements or a letter from an accountant.

Employers cannot dismiss or disadvantage an employee who attends jury duty.  It is a criminal offence for an employer to dismiss or disadvantage an employee performing jury duty.  Punishment includes heavy fines, imprisonment, or a court orders for reimbursement of lost wages and/or reinstatement of employment. 

Do I Get Paid For Jury Duty?

Days of trialDaily rateEmployment status
Days 1-10$106.30 a dayAll jurors
Days 11 to trial end$247.40 a dayJurors who are employed
Days 11 to trial end$106.30 a dayJurors who are not employed

As a juror, you are also paid a travel allowance, which is calculated on the distance from your postcode to the courthouse at 30.7 cents per kilometre. 

Brander Smith McKnight criminal lawyers can provide advice on all aspects of jury duty, including exemptions and your rights and obligations as an employee or employer.

Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.

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