Although a crime thriller writer, I dip in and out of the world of big business too, taking contract work for a few months every year. I’m just finishing one contract and have had a meeting to pitch for another when I take a call from my husband.
“You’ve been called up for jury service,” he tells me.
I never thought it would happen, although the chance is much higher than winning the National Lottery – and I eagerly buy a ticket for that every week. It’s a busy time of year for my prospective employers, though, and I imagine they’ll look for someone else to fill the contract role. Luckily, it seems they don’t have a problem as long as I’m only away for the average duration of two weeks.
On my first day, I turn up at the Crown Court, slightly out of breath. It’s 9.15am. I’ve already done an hour’s work at home, and cut it fine for the brisk thirty minute walk to the court. I later find out that other jurors travelling a longer distance have turned up at 8am and twiddled their thumbs until now.
Andy, the cheerful clerk, crosses my name off his list and tells me to join the hundred or so souls sitting in the jury lounge. Half of us are new boys and girls like me. The old hands are laughing and chatting with each other, making drinks in the spacious kitchen. We newbies sit in silence, typing on smartphones or reading newspapers. The Sun and the free Metro are favourites.
Andy gives us a pep talk. He impresses on us that this is an important civic duty. If selected to try a case, we must only talk about the case when the entire jury is present; otherwise we cannot talk amongst ourselves even, and definitely not with anyone else. We must not speak of it on social media. We must not research it online. Then we see a DVD, where a blonde woman so carefully made up she could be animatronic tells us the same things. She shows us the layout of a court. She explains that the court usher, clerk, judge and barristers wear black robes. The judge and barristers wear wigs too.
Andy says the computer will pick batches of sixteen to go to each court, then the clerk will pick twelve to stay there. Each selection is random.
Court ushers arrive to collect juries for trials already in progress. They’re led off laughing and joking. Eventually, my name is called and I obediently follow the usher. After a short stay in an antechamber with airport style seating, sixteen of us are led into the courtroom. At last, I’ll find out what it’s like to serve on a jury – or will I? Only twelve of us will remain after the clerk has made her choice…
My jury service took place a month ago. Read more about it here – I posted a blog every day this week:
Note – all names have been changed