Thursday, August 09, 2007

"Jury Service Sucks"

"No It Doesn't"

These two opposing views are part of the graffiti in the Gents cubicles. "Wee, the jury" would have been a good one but the doors are mostly filled up with "I'm bored", "They're all gulity", the usual football allegiances and the odd sexual outburst. "Twelve good men and true, have shat here before you" would have been another good one but I'm not the type to deface public property.

If you just need a piss, there are six urinals, one of which is the right height for a child. Or a dwarf. And because children can't do jury service, I'm assuming that this urinal is meant for a dwarf juror.

Jury service does, indeed, suck. You wait and you wait in a room full of strangers. You can't concentrate on your book because every few minutes names are called over the tannoy system and there's a television slap bang in the middle of the room showing daytime bloody television: alternating between antiques and property shows. Kill me now!

Even when you do get on a case, you wait and wait. You go down to your court waiting area, you get sent back up to your jurors' waiting area. Up and down, up and down, wating, waiting, waiting, whilst points of law are taken up and other cases are dealt with. "A couple of minutes" waiting in court time is three quarters of an hour in real time.

The theatre of the court sucks the juror in. You are in full view of the viewing gallery. The first day I want to shout out, Tourette's-like, take my part in the play. But I have a non-speaking part and soon learn to sit still, concentrate on what is being said, blot out the audience. Deadpan, don't react.

We take notes with court pencils. The juror next to me has an HB. I have a 2B. A 2B! I smudge my way through the first day. The one pencil sharpener between the twelve of us is useless on my 2B pencil. The second day I take my own protracting pencil to the court.

When both sides have been aired several times over and the judge has summed up what we've heard, we are sent to our room to deliberate. Gulity or not guilty? The jurors with recent meeting and seminar experience dominate proceedings. Which is just as well because it is here I find out just how shy and inarticulate I am in a roomful of people I barely know. I have spent over a week with these nice people, dismally failing to make small talk and now when it comes down to the meat and potatoes I am found severely wanting. I want to get it over and done with now! When it's my turn to talk, I stutter and blush.

We all agree, file into court and it is over and done with. We are escorted up to our jurors' assembly room and, hey presto, we are signed off! Just like that! Which I am bloody grateful for because I'd earlier heard a group of jurors saying they'd been there since February. They looked institutionalised and very down about the whole thing.

I've now got two years' respite before I start worrying about being called again. Because, as our second-time juror said to me...

"Once they've got your name..."

17 comments:

  1. Luckily last time I was called, I put on the reply form about the TENS machine I use on my back if I have to sit still for too long. And if it is just before my period I have to wee ever 10 - 15 minutes, even if I haven't had anything to drink for hours. They told me not to turn up.

    My colleague, however, ended up stuck in jury service for 8 weeks even though his work involved "defence of the realm". He'd been excuse on a previous occasion and they wouldn't excuse him a 2nd time.

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  2. I've never been asked and after your post I feel quite relieved.
    My mate got called during her annual holiday - what a swizzz.

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  3. I would just show them my blog and I'd be disqualified.

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  4. "The trick is to say that you're prejudiced against all races"

    I quite like the idea of jury service, although I would no doubt change my mind if I actually had to do it.

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  5. Yes, I'm dead jealous, the one cast-iron excuse to get off work. Someone I knew was out for 8 weeks & had to be dropped off in a mirrored van every day (it was a drugs trial - the glamour!) (though knowing my luck I'd get called in the holidays too)

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  6. Llewtrah - Next time I think I'll discover my IBS will have come back with a vengeance. Thanks for the advice.

    Kaz - There's still plenty of time (I think 70's the upper age limit). And pensioners get the longer cases because they've got more "free" time.

    MJ - If you showed them your blog you'd be facing the jury.

    Billy - Everybody I speak to either would hate to do it or would love to. Being there while a court is in session I must admit is interesting but having someone's fate in your hands is not very pleasant.

    Annie - Christ, a mirrored van! I presume they didn't pop out for a sandwich at lunchtime, then.

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  7. *Shudders*

    Sounds like my idea of hell. And you don't even get a decent pencil!

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  8. Sounds awful.

    The 2B pencil may have been because they thought you were the courtroom sketch artist. Were you wearing a beret and carrying an easel?

    I've never been called (touch wood), and somehow doubt I ever will be. I was a revolutionary in a former life.

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  9. Doris - If they'd given us decent pencils we'd only have nicked them.

    Bob - There were more artistic looking people than me on my jury. You'll have to send me the recipe for Molotov cocktails.

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  10. Fascinating insight Geoff.

    You should have worn your Ipod under your long hair and listened to some Gentle Giant. And the lower urinal must have been quite useful if you were caught short.

    And were there Judge TV versions of the daytime antiques and home decoration programmes? "Hang It" and "Flog It" ?

    I'm off to get my coat!

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  11. It would have been much better if we'd had live trials to watch on tv.

    Like Wimbledon except the main action is always in Court One and there's no Centre Court.

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  12. Oh the responsibility....I'm very glad that I can't be called for jury service in America: that little thing called the death penalty...whimper.

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  13. I couldn't send someone to their death no matter what they'd done (or not done).

    The only jury I want to be considered for in future is the Juke Box Jury.

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  14. I've never been called. At one point in my life I would've loved it; now that I'm old & have discovered that the world is less than black & white I really would not!

    Charlie from our office was called this week and is NOT happy - I should send her over here to get a true-life insight (and maybe to pick up some excuses).

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  15. We had a short case and we came to a decision pretty quickly.

    Even then it certainly wasn't black & white.

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  16. I shall feign mental illness if I ever get called up.

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  17. I shall say I'm a pencil kleptomaniac.

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