As my regular reader is aware, I am doing my civic duty this week having been called to undertake jury service. I, along with 14 others, was required to report to the Brighton Crown Court at 9.30 last Monday morning where I fully expected to be incarcerated for two weeks. Incarcerated, that is, during the hours the court sits. The information booklet I had received and the video we were shown at the court emphasized that there could be periods when we potential jurors (or jurors, if we were hearing a case) would be required to wait and do nothing much that is constructive. These periods could sometimes be lengthy. And that is what has transpired so far.
Having reported at 9.30, we all sat around waiting until 11.30 when 15 of us were taken into court and 12 (including me) were selected to act as the jury. Obviously I cannot speak about the case itself, except to say we were told it had been scheduled to last for seven days. We had barely been sworn in when it was announced that the first witness for the prosecution had yet to arrive. We adjourned for lunch just before 12.30 with instructions to be back ready to start at 1.30. 1.30 came and went, but just after 2.00 we returned to court. By 3.45 we had finished hearing from that witness and court was adjourned until 10.00 Tuesday. We had already been told that we would not be sitting Tuesday afternoon, but on Tuesday morning much of the time was taken up with legal discussions which the jury was not permitted to hear and by the time we adjourned again at 12.55 we had heard maybe an hour of evidence. Today, by contrast, our waiting periods have been shorter, and we have heard some interesting (and contrasting) stories.
By the end of my two weeks I might have formed a different opinion, but I am convinced our system of justice is probably the fairest in existence. Not for us the quasi-justice of the former communist states nor of the so-called banana republics. I think our system is better, too, than the system used in many European countries. Although I'm not entirely sure how they go about it, from what little I have heard I prefer our way of doing things. At least both prosecution and defence are given a fair crack of the whip and juries, which are selected entirely at random, are ordinary men and women who are completely impartial.