HC Deb 25 February 1991 vol 186 cc388-9W
Mr. Harry Barnes

To ask the Attorney-General (1) how catchment areas for jury service are determined; and whether there are circumstances in which those summoned for jury service can opt to fulfil their duties within adjacent catchment areas;

(2) what measures are taken when females are asked to undertake jury service to ensure that there is (a) a limit to the hours they need to be away from their homes, (b) coverage for any homework and child care responsibilities they might normally undertake and (c) that they are not vulnerable by having to resort to public transport at unsociable hours;

(3) what consideration is taken into account in determining whether a person is to be summoned to undertake jury service of (a) the distances they are required to travel to court, (b) the availability of public transport facilities and (c) the length of time a juror will need to be away from their home.

The Attorney-General

The Juries Act 1974 provides that the Lord Chancellor shall have regard to the convenience of persons summoned and to their respective places of residence and in particular to the desirability of selecting jurors from within reasonable daily travelling distance of the court which they are to attend. The area from which jurors are summoned to attend a particular location of the Crown Court usually coincides with the petty sessional areas from which the persons are normally committed for trial to that location when charged with a class 4 offence. However, jurors are normally only summoned from those parts of the catchment area which are within one or two hours travelling time. The court day normally begins at 10.30 am and concludes at about 4.30 pm and although they are normally expected to attend some time in advance jurors are usually away from their homes or places of work for a maximum of about nine hours. This, of course, varies with the length of the court day and the actual travelling time for a particular juror. No special arrangements are made for females who are performing this important public duty to which all those eligible are expected to contribute.

Where public transport is not easily accessible jurors may receive an enhanced rate for use of a private vehicle. Those who cannot reasonably use public transport and do not have their own transport may, of course, apply for excusal. There is no provision for a juror to opt to attend a court which has an adjacent catchment area.

Those with young children are entitled to receive jurors allowances including financial loss allowance in the same way as any other juror. Financial loss allowance is paid where a juror, in consequence of attendance has incurred any expenditure (other than travelling and subsistence costs which are paid as separate allowances) which he or she would not otherwise incur including any expenditure on child care costs or any loss of earnings or benefit. There is, however, an overall maximum of £35.30 per day which may be paid in respect of financial loss for the first 10 days of service. This increases thereafter to £70.60.

Any person may apply for excusal from jury service and summoning officers are instructed to treat with sympathy applications on the grounds of the need to care for young children.