Describe both the qualifications required for jurors and the procedure for selecting a jury.

The Juries Act 1974 as amended currently sets out the qualifications for jury service.

Grade: A-C | £0.00.

The work of the Morris Committee in 1972 resulted in a move away from the property qualification as an entitlement to sit on a jury to a more representative system of eligibility.  This eligibility was now to be based upon citizenship of the United Kingdom. 

The requirement that eligible persons needed to own property before they could be considered for jury service at all was open to a variety of criticism.  Not least was the criticism that eligibility was based upon a system that was not representative, but elitist in nature and took no account of merit or ability.  It was not surprising therefore that the Morris Committee wanted to move towards a system that more appropriately reflected the needs of society generally.

The Juries Act 1974 as amended currently sets out the qualifications for jury service.  These are as follows:

There are age limits: -

A person must be aged between 18 and 70. This is currently under review and in August 2013 Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green announced that the government will introduce legislation early in 2014 to increase the upper age limit for jurors to 75. Damian Green said the right to be tried by peers "is, and remains, a cornerstone of the British justice system laid down in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago".

"This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process," he added.

The minimum age is the same as when someone is legally recognised as being an adult.  This may be a good thing bearing in mind the nature of some difficult cases that juries might be asked to determine.  It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect a young person to be able to cope with some of the cases.  In addition there is the issue of whether young persons would have enough experience of life to be able to make a real and meaning contribution to the work of the jury.  It is also consistent with the age when someone is entitled to vote. The maximum age, which is currently 70, is when most people will feel entitled to retire and by this time may feel that they have done enough in terms of their own personal contribution and duty. Many groups welcome the change to the age limit, but in 2010, the Council of Circuit Judges warned that allowing people aged over 70 to serve on juries could lead to "substantial disruption" to criminal trials. The change to the age limit will require primary legislation which will be brought forward early in 2014.

A person must be registered as a parliamentary or local government elector:

In other words a juror has to be someone who is entitled to vote in parliamentary elections or in local elections.  That is to say their name must appear on the electoral roll.  This system of registration is based upon age, occupancy and residency.  The date for qualification is the 15th October each year, when appropriate electoral forms must be completed and returned to the local authority for the area.  The property qualification no longer applies.  Potential jurors are selected at random from the electoral roll.

There is a residency qualification and this is consistent with the view that rights and obligations should flow from citizenship as opposed to ownership or some other basis.  The person must have lived in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years, since their 13th birthday.

Despite qualification there are some restrictions to serving as a juror.  One of these is that the person must not be a mentally disordered person.  This is fully defined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 but includes persons who are incapable of administering their property and affairs, persons resident in a hospital or institution as a result of their mental illness or to whom a guardian has been appointed under the Mental Health Acts.

Lack of capacity would be another reason a juror would be discharged from serving, as he may not have sufficient understanding of the English language.  Other disabilities such as blindness or deafness may also give rise to persons being discharged from serving as a juror. In the case of a deaf person the primary reasoning would be because only jurors are allowed to be present in the jury room (an interpreter would constitute a ’13th person’).

Persons who have been imprisoned for life or have a sentence of 5 years or more are disqualified. In addition persons are disqualified for ten years if they have a sentence of less than five years or suspended sentences or are the subject of community orders.

There would probably be some concern if persons who were the subject of bail were able to sit as a juror and, not surprisingly, such persons are also disqualified. A disqualified person can be fined up to £5000 if they fail to disclose the disqualification and attend for jury service.

A person can apply to be excused from jury service if they are serving in the armed forces. Such an application must be supported by the person's commanding officer certifying that the person is needed on military service and his absence would be detrimental to the efficiency of the military service. The service man or woman will still have to serve at a later date. At one time lawyers, judges, police officers and members of the clergy would have been unable to sit on a jury but the Criminal Justice Act 2003 changed this and they are now able to act as a juror and carry out their civic duty.


There are likely to be unforeseen situations when it may be considered unreasonable to expect an individual to carry out jury service. In the circumstances an individual can be excused or have their requirement to carry out jury service deferred if there is 'good reason'. Application for such excusal or deferral should be made the Jury Central Summoning Bureau.

Some of the reasons eligible people could apply to the Bureau for deferral include personal health reasons, the death or illness of a close relative or pre-booked holidays.


Mention has already been made of the qualification element of being registered on the electoral register but there are some additional selection procedures to decide which members of the public are chosen to sit on the jury.


Once individuals have been picked at random from the electoral register for a court area, a summons is sent out using a computer system. On receiving a jury summons you will be required to reply within seven days. Once your jury service has been confirmed you must attend and there are penalties for non-attendance. From those attending 15 are chosen at random from the jury pool and those 15 go into the court room. The clerk then selects 12 at random from those assembled in the court.


There are a series of checks in place as part of the selection process to minimise the risk of something going wrong with the selection procedure and these are known as challenges.


Before the jury is sworn in both the prosecution and the defence can challenge the array if they wish to question the way in which the jury is selected. This would be the case if the jury was seen to be biased or unrepresentative.


A challenge for cause by either the prosecution or defence can be also be made if it is suspected that a juror has a connection with the case or there is an issue about capacity.


If there is some concern about an individual then the prosecution can ask that the juror in question is asked to stand by the prosecution. This might apply if it is obvious that a juror is unsuitable and the defence agree but the judge also has some discretionary powers to remove a juror.


There is also scope for routine police checks and for a wider background check in some national security or terrorist cases and with the Attorney-General’s express permission.


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Word Count 1348


This subject is introduced by a reference to the work of the Morris Committee 1972 and a move away from the property qualification to a more representative system.

The requirements of the Juries Act 1974 are set out:

  • age limits of between 18 and 70;
  • registered as a parliamentary or local government elector;
  • residency qualification;
  • not a mentally disordered person under the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 2003;
  • no lack of capacity.

The essay goes on to look at the selection procedure in the court room.




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