herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

No opting out of jury duty for professionals

IT'S the civic duty that most people try to avoid, but escaping jury service is likely to become more difficult in the near future.

The Law Reform Commission (LRC) is recommending that loopholes which allow certain professions to opt out of jury duty be closed.

Politicians, civil servants, army personnel, clergy, doctors and even vets can avoid sitting on a jury because of laws dating from 1976.

However, the so-called middle-class exemption should be removed, according to a consultation paper from the LRC.

The document outlines a number of recommended changes to the jury system that could prove the most radical shake-up in three decades.

It also raises concerns about jury members to accessing information on the internet while a trial is in progress.



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In particular, the LRC is concerned that new technologies such as iPhones enable curious jurors to search for background information on defendants.

The paper says that it should become a criminal offence for jurors to make inquiries during the course of a trial, beyond the evidence presented in court.

The LRC has looked at ways of ensuring that there are enough jurors available to serve all the courts and of making juries more representative of the modern Irish community.

One of its suggestions is that non-Irish citizens be allowed to sit on juries, provided they are fluent in English.

If implemented, this would open up service to people from other EU countries who live here and to long-term residents from outside the EU.

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice Catherine McGuinness said: "The jury should at least have the possibility of reflecting the changing population there is in Ireland."

Another proposal is that some expenses should be provided for jurors, particularly if they are self-employed.

But it is the removal of the automatic exemption that could prove most controversial when the full LRC consultation paper is launched tonight.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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