I was recently summoned by the powers that be to serve on a jury in my state.
I declined, based on the insurmountable obstacles inherent in performing that role for an indefinite period while being the carer for small children.
However leaving aside the obvious problems and shortcomings of a group of random citizens being responsible for administering justice, it occurred to me that if juries were viable at all, it was because they were meant to be a representative cross-section of society. However according to the paperwork I was sent, the following personal situations were all considered to be reasonable causes for an exemption for being a juror.
- Working in a policing or legal profession
- Working in a court in any capacity
- Being a small business owner or employee
- Being someone with irregular or unpredictable working hours.
- Being a primary carer for children or others
- Being a student exemption
- Living more than 50km from the court
- Being a self-employed or independent contractor
- Having a significant medical condition.
Who does this leave? Surely just about anyone could potentially be exempt under these conditions. The only class of people I can think of would be people without children, in well-paid secure jobs for large employers, living in central Melbourne, and in perfect health.
Maybe that was an ideal, and even achievable juror in the past, but certainly not now.
Now, by taking into account all these very reasonable exemptions, we have made jury duty the province of the well-off middle class alone. And that can’t be good for justice.