If you are called for jury service in Scotland it will be to serve at a criminal trial, but you may be called to serve at a civil trial.
Criminal trials take place in either the High Court or the sheriff court depending on the seriousness of the crime. Civil trials take place in the Court of Session.
Potential jurors are chosen at random from the electoral roll register. It is a duty required of most people since in Scotland that when a person is charged with a serious crime they may have the question of guilt decided, not by a Judge, but by fellow members of the public.
The service given by those who attend as jurors is an essential part of the administration of the Scottish criminal law system
This guidance explains what to expect if you are called for jury service to serve at a criminal trial taking place in either the High Court or the sheriff court depending on the seriousness of the crime.
For the most up to date information on Jury Service (Criminal Cases) in Scotland visit The Scottish Courts Website
Criminal Courts – High Court and Sheriff Court
Criminal cases are dealt with under one of two procedures depending on the seriousness of the offence, these are:-
• minor offences, such as being drunk and disorderly, are heard before a JP or sheriff, or a fixed penalty may be imposed at the time of the incident
• serious offences, such as rape and murder, are heard before a sheriff/judge and jury.
A sheriff court can be designated as a drugs court for the immediate area. It can deal with offenders who have a drug abuse problem
The High Court
The High Court is presided over by the Lord Justice General and the Lord Justice Clerk. They usually sit as chairpersons in the courts of criminal appeal. The other full time judges, who are also Senators of the College of Justice, are known as Lords Commissioners of Justiciary when sitting in the High Court. Additionally, retired judges, and also temporary judges, who are usually senior Advocates or Sheriffs, are sometimes employed to assist in ensuring that the court can accommodate all the business with which it may have to deal.
The High Court deals with the most serious crimes such as murder, rape, culpable homicide, armed robbery, drug trafficking and serious sexual offences, particularly those involving children. Cases are presided over by a single judge and tried by a jury of fifteen
The sheriff court can deal with some criminal cases. Cases can be heard before a sheriff or a sheriff and a jury. The maximum sentence for cases heard before a sheriff is a fine of £10,000 or 12 months in prison. The maximum sentence for cases heard before a sheriff and jury is 5 years (3 years for cases that were first called before 1 May 2004) in prison or an unlimited fine.
Examples of criminal cases the sheriff court can deal with are:-
• possession of drugs
• appeals from the Children's Hearing.
Who can be selected for Jury Service in the High Court / Sheriff Court?
You may be asked to Jury Service if:
• You will be at least 18 years old on the date that you start your jury service;
• You are registered as a parliam. entary or local government elector;
• You have lived in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for any period of at least 5 years since you were 13 years old
Some individuals may not qualify or be excused from Jury Service
See the link below for a directory of individuals excused from Jury Service:
Do you qualify for Jury Service?
If you are being considered for jury service, you will receive two legal documents; a notice to potential jurors then some time later a jury citation.
Notice to potential jurors
The notice to potential jurors tells you that you may be called for jury service at some time in the near future. You are being asked to be part of a 'pool' of people who can be called on.
You must let the Clerk of the Court know if you are not allowed to be on a jury – see the link above.
If you are allowed to serve on a jury you must let the Clerk of the Court know of any holiday arrangements or other commitments in the proceeding twelve month period. If you do not return the form completed you may be fined.
You should receive this document, approximately four weeks prior to the trial date.
It will give you information on where and when to attend the court. The citation should also include information on details of current allowances, the claim form for allowances and details of the jurors' court helpline.
On attending Court, you will be shown into the court room along with the other people who have been summoned to register your name.
Once the attendance of all potential jurors has been confirmed, slips containing potential Jurors names, addresses and citation numbers will be placed in a jury bowl. The first case for trial will be called, and at that point the clerk of court will select 15 names from the jury bowl.
In some cases the defendant may decide to plead guilty prior to their trial and when this happens a jury will not be required. This may mean some cases take any guilty pleas first. You may therefore need to wait until these cases have been dealt with.
In a Scottish criminal trial the jury is made up of 15 persons. Those 15 will be chosen from the larger number summoned.
This is not to be confused with a Jury in England and Wales consisting of 12 Jurors
Objections to jurors
During the selection process, the prosecutor and each defendant can object to a maximum of three names without giving any reason.
Knowledge of the defendant
If you think you know the defendant you should inform the clerk of court immediately. The clerk will then report the matter to the Judge who will decide whether you should be excused from serving as a juror.
If you are excused this will not necessarily mean that you are discharged from further attendance and you may be asked to return later in the week if there are other cases to be heard.
After the jury has been selected, the clerk will read to them the charge against the defendant and also administer the oath. (different religions with be given their respective holy books, such as the Bible, Koran etc)
A juror who wish to affirm instead, but prior notice of this should be given to the clerk.
Affirming means that you make a non religious promise before the court that you will well and truly try the case and reach a true verdict on the evidence presented.
A verdict is whether someone is guilty or not guilty of committing a crime.
If you have not been selected and further cases remain you will be told when to return and may have to return more than once in the course of the week.
In Scotland all prosecutions are brought by the Crown acting through the Lord Advocate, or one of the Deputes, or the Procurator Fiscal. It is the task of the Crown to convince the jury of the guilt of the defendant and is done so by providing evidence. Evidence may only be obtained from witnesses; and so the aim of any trial is to allow the jury to hear witnesses and then decide if what the witnesses say satisfies them that the charge has been proved. In some cases the Judge may give a short explanatory talk to the jury, there are no preliminary speeches on behalf of either the Crown or the defendant
The trial will begin with the first witness for the Crown who is examined initially by the prosecutor in what is known as evidence in chief, then by counsel or solicitor for the defendant which is known as cross-examination and again by the prosecutor which is known as re examination
The Judge may also ask the witness questions to clear up any matter of doubt.
The same procedure is followed for each witness until, when the prosecutor has called all the witnesses whose evidence the jury is to consider, the Crown case is closed.
As there is no obligation to prove innocence, the defendant does not have to give any evidence. If the defendant decides to give evidence the roles are reversed; counsel or solicitor for the defendant examines the witness, the prosecutor cross-examines, and counsel or solicitor for the defendant re-examines. When all the evidence has been dealt with, the prosecutor and counsel or solicitor for the defendant may make a speech to the jury to indicate the points they wish the jury to consider in reaching their verdict.
A Jury may have paid attention to the evidence which has been given and to the points which have been made, but they cannot come to any worthwhile decision lacking knowledge of the law. It is the duty of the Judge to provide guidance on this. In what is known technically as the charge or "summing up"
The Judge will explain the separate functions of Judge and jury. It will be explained that the Judge is the sole authority on the law, and only the jury can decide the facts. The Judge may give the jury directions on matters of law which arise in the particular circumstances of the case
The Judge will also remind the Jury of the rules of criminal law which govern all trials. These include the following:
• Every person who is defendant of a crime is presumed innocent until guilt has been proved. The defendant does not require to prove anything. It is for the Crown to prove guilt. The standard of proof which the law demands is not merely that the possibility or even probability but proof beyond reasonable doubt. If, at the end of the day, any such reasonable doubt remains in the minds of the jury the benefit of that doubt must be given to the defendant and the defendant cannot be found guilty.
• Apart from a few statutory exceptions an defendant cannot be convicted on the evidence of a single witness no matter how credible that witness may be. What is required by the law is proof of guilt by corroborated evidence, and the Judge will explain where, in the evidence led in the particular case, corroboration may be found.
Role of the Jury
After the Judge's summing up the jury will retire to consider their verdict. They will appoint someone to chair the discussion and act as spokesperson. The jury's task is to weigh the evidence of the witnesses. They must decide who and who not to believe. They may believe a witness wholly, or in part, or not at all.
The Jury must then consider only the evidence which they believe and must disregard what they do not believe. They must bear in mind the directions given by the Judge on the need for corroboration. The jury will give their decision in the case by returning what is known as a verdict. There must be a verdict on each charge (if more than one) and against each defendant (if more than one). Although there are three verdicts open to the jury - guilty, not guilty or not proven - their fundamental choice is to decide whether or not the Crown has established, beyond reasonable doubt, that the charge before them was committed by the defendant. If that is the case then a verdict of guilty can be returned either unanimously or by a majority. However if the jury wish to return a majority verdict of guilty there must be at least eight of their number in favour of that verdict. If the jury are not satisfied that the guilt of the defendant has been established (or the facts of the case have not been proved), then a verdict of not guilty or not proven should be returned. Either of these verdicts can be unanimous or by a majority and will result in the acquittal of the defendant. If the majority are for acquittal, the jury should then decide whether to return a verdict of not guilty or not proven.
The effect of these two verdicts is the same, the defendant is acquitted of the charge for all time.
On returning to court the verdict will be taken by the clerk in response to questions put to the jury's spokesperson. The verdict is then delivered before the Court and entered in the court record by the clerk; this may take some time. In the event of acquittal, the defendant will be dismissed from the dock. In the event of conviction, the jury will require to remain in their place until sentence is pronounced by the Judge. Throughout the trial no member of the jury may discuss the case with anyone except fellow jurors and then only in the jury room. It should be remembered that it is a contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment or a fine, for a juror to discuss any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their discussions even after the trial has ended. It is also a contempt of court for any person to make any enquiries into a Jury’s decision.
When the verdict has been recorded and the case disposed of, the jury will normally, but not always, be discharged from further attendance
Following the trial a member of staff will be in attendance to assist in completion of any claim for travelling expenses and compensation for loss of earnings
A guide to claiming Jury Service expenses
The link below explains the allowances that can be paid for attendance at court as a juror, including: travel, subsistence, loss of earnings/benefit, childminding/adult carer allowance. There are maximum amounts which can be claimed and these are detailed in the guide. Some information for employers can also be found here:
Applying for expenses - Jury Service Scotland Criminal Cases