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Website review

18 July 11

Reviews of websites concerning the Scottish jury

by Iain Nisbet

Scottish Court Service

www.scotcourts.gov.uk/courtusers/jurors

This is the page you are directed to from the Scottish Judiciary’s pages on attending court (www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/11/0/Attending-Court) as a juror. In turn, these pages, titled “information for jurors”, invite the user to choose between civil and criminal jury information.

Having done so, there are three PDF guides to each section. The first deals with eligibility for jury service, the second is a lengthier guide to being a juror, and the third is a guide to applying for expenses. The issue of eligibility (or “qualification”) is the first question on most people’s minds, and so will be most frequently read. The guides, while longer, are a very useful and practical guide and well worth reading. Of all the material reviewed, I think these guides are the best explanation of the juror’s role.

There is also a host of interesting “did you know?” information to be found in the various guides. For example, I was not aware that advocates’ clerks, sheriff officers and members of the children’s panel are not allowed to serve as members of a jury.

While at least some of the information could have been included on the main site, rather than delegating it to the downloadable documents, PDF is more or less ubiquitous nowadays and therefore not a bad way of delivering larger quantities of information – as in this case.

ScotJury

www.scotjury.co.uk

The site bills itself as an “independent website for Scottish Jurors… run by volunteers who were themselves called for jury service for and on behalf of jurors”. It is run anonymously, but appears to be based on the author’s (or authors’) experiences of being a juror at Glasgow Sheriff Court in a criminal trial.

It begins with some very useful practical advice, such as the suggestion that you bring a book as there’s likely to be a lot of waiting around. There are also some nice humorous touches along the way. Consider the following:

  •  “Solicitors: black gowns or suits and no expression.”
  •  “Potential jurors – easily spotted as they always look lost as they ponder signs like ‘court officials only’ wondering if this includes them.”

Okay, so you’re unlikely to crack a rib, but it raises a smile all the same.

The Who’s Who of court personnel and other attendees will also be of much assistance to potential jurors.

However, the helpful tips seem to stop abruptly at the moment of being selected for the jury itself, with the following: “From this point onward you will be following the instruction of the sheriff/judge.” While true, the official publications do more to explain the process thereafter.

Elsewhere on the site there is a very useful glossary and some fascinating historical information on the institution of the jury – from ancient Athens, via the Magna Carta to Erskine’s Institute and beyond to the modern-day jury. The glossary does seem to have been cut and pasted almost in its entirety (and without acknowledgment of its source) from the glossary used by the websites of the Scottish Judiciary (www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/29/0/Glossary); the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (www.scottishlegalcomplaints.com/glossary.aspx) and Disclosure Scotland (www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/glossary).

The site has much to say on the infamous three verdicts in Scots criminal law, and has an unusual interest in “jury nullification” which borders on the obsessive and is probably not very helpful for the average juror.

This fairly simple website is set out in quite a plain design, but is relatively easy to navigate and the text is well organised so as to avoid overloading the casual visitor.

Finally, a word must be said on the disclaimer carried by the site – possibly the widest I have ever come across: “you should not rely on the factual accuracy of anything on this site”. Well, don’t say they didn’t warn you!

Juries

http://juries.typepad.com

Finally, “Juries” is a US-based blog on the subject of juries. While the news and links are primarily related to the American experience, it covers international juries-related news as well – including from Scotland. Its main use would be as an insight into a comparator system, and the links section alone emphasises the differences (including as it does a list of trial and jury consultants!).

The website review column is written by Iain A Nisbet of Govan Law Centre

e: iain@absolvitor.com

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