Juries play an important role in Victoria's justice system. They are made up of people from all walks of life, representing a broad cross-section of the community.
The Australian Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury, and it is a fundamental right and civic responsibility of all Australian citizens as part of our democratic society.
"Juries bring the values, standards and expectations of our community into the courtroom."
Jury service is a window to the justice system for most citizens, and most jurors come away from it with a greater appreciation for our justice system.
What is jury service?
Jury service is the process through which citizens are potentially selected to be jurors on a criminal or civil trial.
Every Supreme and County Court criminal trial, and some civil cases, are heard by juries. These are a collection of average citizens, 12 for criminal trials and 6 for civil trials, who are selected at random to sit in the courtroom, hear the arguments of both sides, listen to all the evidence, and then, as a group, come to a verdict.
In criminal trials, the verdict will be that the accused is either guilty or not guilty of each of the crimes they have been charged with. In civil trials, the verdict will be in favour of one or the other of the parties involved in the trial.
Juries are indispensable to our justice system, as it is they, not judges, who determine whether the accused person is guilty or not guilty, or whether the plaintiff in a civil trial has established their claim. Through this very important contribution to justice in Victoria, juries bring the values, standards and expectations of our community into the courtroom.
How does jury service work?
Each year, around 25,000 people attend court for jury service in Victoria, with approximately 6,500 serving as jurors on around 600 trials. But there are a number of steps taken before they get there.
Firstly, the Victorian Electoral Commission will periodically, upon request from the Juries Commissioner, randomly select several thousand people at a time from the Victorian electoral roll, and provide Juries Victoria with their name, date of birth, gender and listed address.
Juries Victoria then sends each of these people a notice of selection for jury service in the mail, with a short questionnaire designed to determine whether or not the individual is eligible to take part. Citizens are encouraged to complete this questionnaire online.
Juries Victoria assesses all questionnaires to determine each citizen's eligibility for jury service. To those who are eligible and those who do not have a good reason to be excused from jury service, a summons for jury service is sent 2-3 weeks prior to a date we want them to attend court.
On any given day, there might be up to 150 people attending court for jury service. From these groups, called a jury pool, people are chosen at random to form smaller groups called jury panels. It is a jury panel that is taken into a courtroom for the final step in the jury selection process. A judge oversees the jury empanelment process and once a jury is selected, the trial begins immediately.
On most days, those people not selected as a juror on a trial by the end of the day go home, their jury service having been completed simply by making themselves available to potentially serve on a trial. On some days, these people may have to return the following day.
Do I have to do jury service?
In short, yes.
Jury service is one of the most important civic duties you may be called upon to undertake. Much like voting, jury service is a compulsory right and responsibility of citizenship in Australia.
If you get notified you have been randomly selected, you must complete the eligibility form and submit it to Juries Victoria. This determines whether you are eligible for jury service. There are a number of circumstances laid out in the Juries Act 2000 (Vic) which may mean you are ineligible for jury service. There are also valid reasons to be excused from jury service, which are listed on your form.
If you are deemed eligible by Juries Victoria, you will be sent a summons. You are legally obligated to attend court as summonsed, unless you are deferred or excused by our office prior to your summons date. Failure to attend as summonsed can attract significant penalties.
Do I get paid for jury service?
Yes, you get paid for jury service.
Juries Victoria pays you a jury payments of $40 per day for the first 6 days, and $80 per day thereafter.
Your employer is legally obligated to pay you the difference between this amount and what you would reasonably have expected to have earned had you worked instead of attended jury service. You can find out more about work and payment here.