1.2.1 – Charge: Jury Empanelment

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Members of the jury panel, in a moment I am going to give you a final opportunity to apply to be excused from sitting on the jury for this trial. Please listen carefully to what I am about to say, so that you will know whether you should apply.

Possible prejudicial knowledge

It is essential that every member of the jury be completely open-minded about the case that they will hear, and not favour one side or the other. Sometimes a juror knows one of the people involved in the trial, or knows something about them, and so may not be able to be unbiased. Even if that juror feels capable of treating the people involved in the case fairly, to the outside world it may seem likely that they will favour one side or the other. This would undermine the interests of justice.

A similar problem arises if a juror has, or believes they have, information about the facts of the case.

I therefore need to give you some information about this case, and the people involved in it. You should listen to this information carefully, to see if you recognise any of the names, or have any other information or knowledge about the case. If you do, you should apply to be excused when my associate asks you in a moment.

The accused person’s name is [insert name].

[He/she] has been charged with [list and describe the offence[s], mentioning the name[s] of any victim[s]].

In the course of the trial, it is likely that the following people will be called as witnesses [insert names of witnesses]. You may also hear the following people mentioned [insert names of people who may be mentioned during the trial, a knowledge of whom might cause a juror to be embarrassed.]

[Insert any other relevant information that may affect juror impartiality. This information should be discussed with counsel prior to raising it with the jury.]

As I have said, if any of you know the accused, or any of the other people whose names I have mentioned, you should apply to be excused when my associate asks you.

Duration of the trial

This trial is expected to last until [insert anticipated end date]. During the trial, you will need to attend court [specify sitting days and hours. Advise of any anticipated breaks in the trial]. The Juries Commissioner has already given you several opportunities to apply to defer jury service because of the expected length of the trial, or because of personal circumstances, such as child care obligations or issues with your health. But you will have a further opportunity to apply to be excused if you wish to do so. If you think you have a valid reason for being excused because of the trial length or your personal circumstances, then you should apply to be excused when my associate asks you.

Other Reasons

Finally, there may also be some personal reason why you feel you cannot be a juror in this case. The law recognises that a person can be excused from being on a jury if they will be unable to consider the case impartially or if they are unable to serve for any other reason. Consider whether you will be able to decide the case fairly. In a case involving allegations of sexual offences, a potential juror once told the judge that it was “too close to home”. That may have meant he or she could not treat the parties to the case fairly. However, other people in similar situations serve as jurors in sexual offence cases every day, and can put aside any personal experiences, or any bias or sympathy that may arise from the fact that the case involves an allegation of a sexual offence.

I urge you to think carefully before you apply to be excused because you cannot be impartial or for any other reason. Serving on a jury is one of the most important things that you can do as a member of the community, and our system of justice cannot operate unless people are prepared to perform this duty.

Applying to be excused

In a moment my associate will call each of your [numbers/names], and ask you to answer "present". If you want to apply to be excused, you should answer "excuse". Once everybody’s [name/number] has been called, I will hear the applications to be excused. If your reason for wanting to be excused is personal, you may give it to me in writing. Paper will be provided to you upon request.

 

Last updated: 11 July 2018

See Also

1.2 – Jury Empanelment