Every person who is over 18 years of age and who is entered on the Register of Dail Electors is eligible to be called for Jury Service.
Under the Juries Act, 1976 and subsequent amending legislation all persons within a defined area can be called for Jury Service. In County Mayo, anybody who is on the Electoral Register for the County, being over 18 years of age, can be called to act as a member on a Jury.
From a practical point of view, this starts with a letter being received from the County Registrar who issues a Summons to attend at the Courthouse in Castlebar to be part of a Jury panel. Normally speaking, there are usually between 300 and 500 people called four times per year to act as a panel of Jurors for criminal trials. The types of cases that are dealt with in Castlebar and where a Jury panel are required are more than likely criminal cases, which are serious in nature. In the recent past, there have been cases concerning assault causing harm, sexual offences, drugs offences, road traffic offences involving death or serious injury, theft and fraud offences and offences as serious as manslaughter.
There is a pre-occupation with people who receive summonses for Jury Service to know how they can get out of them. This is very short sighted because it is an entitlement that every person has, as they are on the Electoral Register, to act as a Jury member.
There are certain categories of people who cannot act on a Jury panel; people who are convicted of a serious offence of more than five years; people who are not Irish citizens; people who are over 65 years of age; people who are members of the Oireachtas; people who practice an important community service; people who are connected with the legal profession. It is only the County Registrar or the Trial Judge who can decide whether you can be excused or not.
If you fail or refuse to answer the Summons compelling you to attend for Jury Panel, then you can be prosecuted and brought before the Court for failing to comply with our obligation. Just because you attend Court as a member of the Jury Panel does not necessarily mean that you are going to end up on a Jury.
From the pool of persons called, 12 jurors are picked for each individual case. When a case is called, the jury panel are advised as to what the nature of the case is, as in what type of crime has alleged to have been committed. They are also advised as to who the parties are and who the representatives acting for all the parties are. A list of witnesses who may be called during the course of the criminal trial is also made known. If somebody is connected directly or indirectly to any of those participants in the trial, then they may be excused from attending.
In simple terms, a Jury comprises of 12 people. In a criminal trial, it is the jury who decides the guilt or innocence of the accused person. The trial judge acts as a referee between the prosecution, who bring the case, and the defence who represent the accused.
Ultimately, the Jury are front row observers to the exchanges during the trial. They will have to weigh up the evidence and decide whether the accused person, based on the evidence they have seen, is guilty or innocent of the charge.
Juries do not have any role in sentencing. If they find that an accused person is guilty of a charge, then the sentencing role is handed over to the trial Judge who takes responsibility from there.
Jury Service is not paid. It is an obligation that you may be called upon to carry out. It is particularly inconvenient for those who are self-employed. Usually speaking for those who are an employee, provision will be made by an employer for Jury Service.
Jury Service is extremely important as it allows for the proper function of the court system and the administration of justice in a public forum. Lay people, who are the Jurors, and who are not connected with the case have a hands on role to play in the administration of justice. Traditionally, Mayo juries are very engaging and there are also a high proportion of those that are summoned who want to involve themselves in the process.
The criminal courts for the most part are public forums so therefore; any person who is interested in any aspect of criminal law can attend at any court sitting in County Mayo at any time and witness the administration of criminal justice first hand.
For further details, please contact – https://www.odwyersolicitors.ie/contact/