This information applies to Scotland only.
Coronavirus - jury trials
Check the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service website for updates about what is happening if you have been serving on a jury or have a citation to serve on a jury. Trials by jury resume from July 2020 with all the social distancing rules in place. There is information about jury trials operating from remote centres on the Scottish Judiciary website.
There is more helpful information on video about being on a jury in a remote centre on the Scottish Courts and Tribunal website.
Being called for jury service
If you're called for jury service, you'll usually have to serve at a criminal trial, but you can 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 with a jury can take place either in the Court of Session or in the All-Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court.
Generally, both types of trial proceed in the same way. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals website has a lot of helpful information about the court system and going to court as a juror.
Receiving a jury citation
The names of people aged 18 and over are selected at random from the electoral register for jury service. You will receive a single legal document called a jury citation between three and nine weeks before the trial date. It will give you information about where and when to attend the court. You must read it carefully.
You must respond to the jury citation by going to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website. You must provide your contact phone number and date of birth. If you don't have internet access, you can phone the court that cited you. You may be fined if you don't respond to the citation.
Before responding to the citation, you should read the guidance documents on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website and make sure you're not ineligible or disqualified from serving on a jury.
You should also ask your employer what the policy about earnings is if an employee is called and serves on a jury. If your employer does not intend to pay your normal salary you have to get a Certificate of Loss of Earnings from the court. You should collect this form from court before the citation date. Your employer has to complete this and you can hand it in to the court on the day you are cited to attend. Even if you are not selected to sit on a jury you may lose earnings on the day of the citation which can be paid back.
You should take the citation with you to court.
Who can apply to be excused from the jury
If you want to ask to be excused from jury service, you should read the guide to jury service eligibility, fill in the application for exemption from jury service from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website and return this form to the clerk of court. If you don't have internet access, you can obtain a copy from the court that sent you the citation.
You can apply to be excused from jury service if you:
- are disqualified because of a criminal conviction listed below
- are ineligible because of an occupation listed below
- are ineligible because of a mental disorder
- have served on a jury in the last five years
- are aged 71 or over and don't want to serve on a jury
- were excused by direction of any court from jury service for a period which has not yet expired.
You should try to return the exemption form within seven days of receiving the jury citation.
You should receive a letter from the court saying whether you've been excused. If you don't receive anything, you should contact the court.
You'll be disqualified from serving on a jury if at least one of the following has happened in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man:
- you've been sentenced to imprisonment for life or for five years or more
- you've been sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's, the Secretary of State's or the Governor of Northern Ireland's pleasure (sentenced for murder while under the age of 18)
- in the last seven years (or 3.5 years if you were under 18 on the date of conviction), you've served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention which was for between three and six months
- in the last ten years (or five years if you were under 18 on the date of conviction), you've served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention which was for between six and 30 months
- you've served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention which was for between 30 months and five years
- you've been detained in a borstal institution in the last seven years
- you're on bail for, or in connection with, criminal proceedings in any part of the UK
- you've been convicted of an offence and the penalty of a probation order, drug treatment and testing order, community service order, youth community order, community payback order, restriction of liberty order, supervision order, curfew order or attendance centre order was imposed and is not yet spent.
People ineligible to serve on a jury include:
- advocates and solicitors
- apprentices of, and legal trainees employed by, solicitors
- officers and staff of any court
- constables of any police force
- police cadets
- members of children's panels.
People in the following occupations have a right to be excused if they apply within seven days of receiving the jury citation:
- members of the Scottish Parliament, members of the Scottish Government or junior Scottish ministers
- members or officers of either House of Parliament
- full-time serving members of the forces
- practising members of the medical or similar profession
- ministers of religion or members of a religious body.
You'll only be excused 'as of right' if you apply within seven days of receiving the jury citation. If you apply after this, you'll be required to provide a good reason for being excused, and this will be considered by the clerk of court.
You should apply to be excused from jury service if one of the following applies:
- you're receiving compulsory medical treatment for a mental disorder and are detained in hospital for that treatment
- you're receiving medical treatment for a mental disorder and are under guardianship because you can't manage your affairs.
For a full list of people ineligible to serve on a jury, see the guide to jury service eligibility on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
Anyone aged 18 or over on the electoral register can be summoned for jury service. You can apply to be excused if you're aged 71 or over. In these circumstances you can apply for an exemption up until the date you attend court, but it may be helpful to let the court know as soon as possible. If you're over 71 and want to serve on a jury, you're permitted to do so.
You can apply to be excused 'as of right' if you:
- attended court for jury service within the last two years but were not selected to serve on a jury
- attended court for jury service and were selected to serve on a jury within the last five years.
You'll only be excused 'as of right' if you apply within seven days of receiving the jury citation. If you apply after this, you'll be required to provide a good reason for being excused, and this will be considered by the clerk of court.
Applying to be excused on other grounds
You may wish to apply to be excused from jury service. You can make an application for exemption on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
If you have a medical condition or ailment that would make it difficult or impossible for you to serve as a juror, you should contact the court immediately. You may have to provide a medical certificate.
You should receive a letter from the court saying whether you have been excused. If you don't receive anything, you should contact the court.
It is difficult to estimate the exact length of any trial. The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service says that jury service is unlikely to last for more than a week, but this depends on several factors - a trial with a lot of witnesses will usually take longer than a trial with only a few. Cases that take longer than a week are more likely to be in the High Court, but this can also happen in the Sheriff Court.
Who can serve on a jury
To be qualified to serve on a jury, you must:
- be 18 years of age or older. There's no upper age limit for serving on a jury, but you can be excused from jury service if you're 71 years of age or older and you don't want to serve on a jury
- be on the electoral register
- have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since the age of 13
- not be on the list of people who are disqualified or ineligible. The list of disqualified or ineligible people includes staff of the court service, police and anyone with a criminal conviction which is not yet spent.
Do I have to attend court when I'm called
Deferring jury service
You could have your jury service deferred, but you would need to show good reason, for example you have a holiday booked. You would have to show the court some proof of your reason.
Release during jury service
Generally you won't be relieved from jury service once you've been sworn in.
Conscientious objection to serving on a jury
You don't have the right to refuse to serve on a jury on the grounds that you object to jury service in principle. If you want to object to serving on the jury because of the subject matter of the case, you can only be excused at the court's discretion.
Court discretion to excuse
A court has discretion to excuse someone from serving on a jury, but there needs to be a very good reason why you can be excused, for example you have scheduled exams that can't be changed.
Application to be excused is refused
If your application to be excused from jury service has been refused, you don't have the right of appeal. When you appear in court to serve on the jury, the judge usually asks if there's any reason why someone on the jury can't serve on it. You can state your case to be excused again and the judge has discretion to excuse you.
Illness and jury service
If you're unwell on a day that you're due to be in court for jury service, you must inform the clerk of court as soon as possible. The contact details are on the paperwork that you get from the court and can also be found on the 'find a court' page of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website. You must provide a medical certificate for the court.
A medical certificate that is requested from a doctor for jury service is exempt from payment. You should tell the doctor's surgery why you need the certificate, and if you have any difficulty in getting the certificate free of charge, you should refer the surgery to the law that provides for the exemption from payment of the fee: The National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
Being a juror
There's detailed information about jury service on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
The jurors' attendance update phone line
After 5pm on the evening before you're due to attend the court, you should phone the dedicated phone number on your citation. A recorded message will tell you what time you should arrive at the court the next day. If you can't phone, you should attend the court at the time indicated on your citation.
When all those who've been called for jury service have arrived, the clerk of court will talk to you all about what's involved in being a juror.
When it's known that the trial is going ahead, the clerk will randomly select 15 people (12 people in a civil trial) to serve on the jury. If you're not selected, or if the trial is no longer going ahead, you could be recalled a few days later to serve on another jury. Attendance at court for the purpose of being selected for a jury is unlikely to last more than a week. It's difficult to estimate the exact duration of any trial.
During selection of a jury, either side in the case could lodge an objection to a juror. If it's a joint objection, you may not become part of the jury. If just one side objects, a reason must be given and the judge will decide whether you should be excused or not.
Knowledge of the accused
If you have any personal knowledge of the case, know anyone involved or work for the same employer as the accused but don't know the person, you should tell the clerk of court immediately. The judge or sheriff will decide whether you should be excused from serving as a juror.
Juror is disabled
If you've been selected for jury service and have a disability for which you need assistance, you should contact the court.
If you're selected to serve on a jury, you'll be sworn in. The clerk of court will administer the oath. This process is called swearing in. You can use a process to affirm instead of swearing the oath. Affirming means that you make a non-religious promise before the court that you will try the case faithfully and reach a true verdict on the evidence presented. You should give the clerk prior notice if you wish to affirm.
Sequence of events
The judge will explain to you what's going to happen. Witnesses are brought before the court to give evidence. Each witness is questioned by the Crown, who prosecutes the case, and by the defence. The accused is also called to give evidence. You will have paper and a pencil for taking notes about the evidence presented to the court. There is more useful information about the trial process on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.
When all the evidence has been presented and the judge or sheriff has addressed the jury, they will ask you to retire to the jury room, appoint a spokesperson and consider your verdict.
What if I become ill
Once the trial has started, if you become unwell overnight or over the weekend and can't return to the court, you must inform the court and provide evidence.
Confidentiality about the case
Once the trial has begun, you must not discuss the case with anyone except fellow jurors, and then only in the jury room. Mobile phones and computers aren't allowed in the jury room. You'll also be instructed not to look in the media for any information about the case in question. The court's permission is needed if anyone, for example the media or members of the public, wants to use text-based devices to communicate directly from the court.
You may not leave the court during the lunch break. You must remain with the other members of the jury.
When the jury has retired to reach a verdict and hasn't reached one by the end of the day, it's possible that the judge or sheriff will ask you to go to a hotel. The rules about confidentiality still apply in overnight accommodation.
It is contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment or a fine, for you to discuss, for example, statements made or votes cast by members of the jury, even long after the trial has ended. It's also contempt of court for anybody to try to obtain such information from a juror.
It's a criminal offence to intimidate, bully or attempt to influence you when you're serving on a jury. If anyone tries to do this, you must report what has happened to the clerk of court.
If you feel threatened at any time by a gesture, word or action, you should inform any court official or police officer immediately.
Before you're asked to leave the courtroom to decide the verdict, the judge will address you in what is known as a 'charge'. You'll be told what evidence you must consider in coming to the verdict and you may be given instructions, or 'directions', about how to consider that evidence.
In trials for rape or sexual assault, the judge may speak about the reasons a victim may have for delaying the reporting of the crime, or about why there may be a lack of physical resistance or force used. Force is not a legal requirement for the crime of rape - the victim may be asleep or unconscious, for example.
When the jury reaches an agreement, either as a majority or unanimously, you return to court to give the verdict.
In a criminal trial, there are three verdicts open to the jury: guilty, not guilty and not proven. Not guilty and not proven both mean that the accused can't be tried again for that offence unless there's compelling new evidence, the original trial was tainted with intimidation or harassment of witnesses, or the accused admits guilt after the trial. If the verdict on any charge is guilty, there must be at least eight jurors in favour of that verdict. The judge decides on the sentence for the accused although may not do so immediately.
In a civil trial, the jury will be asked if they have reached a verdict. If they have, they will then be asked a number of questions, for example is the pursuer liable and if so, to what extent.
What you can claim
You won't be paid for jury service but you may be reimbursed, subject to a maximum daily amount, for:
- the cost of transport to court
- subsistence - the extra cost of meals you buy while attending court
- loss of earnings or benefits
- the extra cost of childminding or babysitting
- the extra cost of caring for a dependent adult.
You can find a full list of what you can claim and how much is covered in the guide to applying for expenses on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
You can claim for loss of earnings or expenses at the end of the period of jury service. The expenses claim form is available on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website . Payment is made by a crossed cheque sent to your home address within seven to ten working days.
If you've attended the court but not been selected, you're entitled to claim expenses subject to the specified limits. You can either claim expenses before leaving the court or send your form at a later date.
You can claim the cost of the journey between your home and the court, for example the cost of a return bus or train fare. If you travel by bike or private car, you can claim a maximum rate per mile. In an emergency or when there's no public transport, the court may pay the cost of a taxi. You should keep any tickets and evidence of transport costs and include these with the claim form.
This allowance is for the extra expense of meals and other out-of-pocket expenses you pay for while attending court. You can't claim this allowance if the court has provided, or offered to provide, your meals or refreshments.
For the period you serve as a juror, you are entitled to claim if either of the following happens:
- your employer doesn't pay you
- you suffer financial loss – for example, you're self-employed and suffer loss of earnings or have to pay someone to stand in for you while you're away. You can't claim for both loss of earnings and someone standing in for you.
An employer is not obliged to pay their employee while they're on jury service unless this is specified in the contract of employment. There's more information for employers on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.
To claim loss of earnings, in addition to the claim form, you'll need to ask your employer to fill in a certificate of loss of earnings and stamp it with an official stamp. You can download the certificate of loss of earnings from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
You can get National Insurance credits if you don't have these paid during your jury service. You must write to your local HM Revenue and Customs office before the end of the benefit year after the tax year in which jury service occurred. For example, if your jury service was in November 2019, the tax year ends in April 2020 and the next benefit year ends on 1 January 2022.
If you employ a babysitter or childminder while serving on the jury, you'll be reimbursed only if the childminder is not part of your normal childcare arrangements, or the hours you need to have covered are more than usual. A certificate from the babysitter or childminder stating their hourly rate must accompany the expenses claim form. This certificate is available in the guide to applying for expenses on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
If the childminder is registered with the Care Inspectorate, you can claim a maximum of £6 per hour. If your childminder is not registered, you can claim only £1 an hour per child.
Dependent adult expenses
If you employ a carer for an adult you care for while serving on the jury, you'll be reimbursed only if the carer is not part of your normal care arrangements, or the hours you need to have covered are more than usual. A certificate from the carer stating their hourly rate must accompany the expenses claim form. This certificate is available in the guide to applying for expenses on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website .
If the carer is registered by the Care Inspectorate, you can claim a maximum of £6 per hour. If your carer is not registered, you can claim only £1 an hour per dependent adult.
Jurors on benefits
Travel, subsistence and childcare reimbursements are ignored as income for means-tested benefits.
You may be able to apply for loss of benefits if your benefits are withdrawn during your jury service. You should contact your local benefits office to inform them of your jury service. If they say that they're going to withdraw your benefit during your jury service, you should contact the court to request a certificate of loss of benefit, which you should ask the benefits office to complete. Without this certificate being completed and the required evidence being produced, payment can't be made.
You cannot be required to look for work if you are a juror and getting Universal Credit. You should tell your work coach so that your claimant commitment can be updated.
You can keep getting Income Support while on jury service because you're not required to be available for work. Some jurors may be working (less than 16 hours) as well as getting Income Support. If you're not paid your earnings while on jury service, you can claim a loss of earnings allowance. As the Department for Work and Pensions treats the allowance in the same way as earnings, no adjustment is normally needed to Income Support.
If you receive Working Tax Credits, your payments aren't affected by jury service.
A juror who is required to attend court can be treated as available for work for a maximum of eight weeks. They should therefore still be able to get Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) during this time. This applies to both contribution-based and income-based JSA. If jury service lasts more than eight weeks, your Jobcentre Plus office should complete a loss of earnings certificate to allow you to apply for reimbursement. If you find that you can no longer get JSA, you may be entitled to Income Support instead. You should inform your Jobcentre Plus office of the dates of your jury service.
You may also have been working (less than 16 hours a week). If you aren't paid during jury service, you can claim a financial loss allowance. As this is treated in the same way as earnings, no adjustment to your JSA is normally made.
Other benefits and allowances
You may be receiving Incapacity Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), statutory sick pay, Personal Independence Payment or Severe Disablement Allowance when you're summoned for jury service. You may wish to ask to be excused on the grounds of your illness or physical disability. You may, however, choose to serve on the jury if you feel fit enough.
Lunch is provided if the case continues into the afternoon for jurors who have been selected to serve. In most courts, jurors will also have a tea or coffee break in the morning and afternoon. Most courts have facilities for lunch, and jurors who haven't been selected but whose attendance is still necessary have access to these.
Leaving the court or courtroom
When serving on a jury, you can't leave the court during the lunch break and must remain with the other jurors. You may also be required to stay in a hotel during your jury service.
While the court is in session, the jury can't leave the courtroom. This means that you may not visit the toilet during the court session time.