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This summer I did Jury Service, and while I obviously can’t share any details about the trial I was on, I wanted to share the things I wish I’d known before I started.
1) Take a book, a magazine and a tablet or laptop. You will spend some time waiting around, but if you expect this and take things with you, you’ll be able to fill that time with something you enjoy. Most people will just bring a newspaper and then spend their time complaining about waiting, don’t be one of these morons. Also – take earphones so you can block out Homes Under the Hammer because there will be a TV in the jury waiting room and there will be someone who insists on watching the worst daytime TV at the highest possible volume.
2) Expect to be tired in the evenings. Court days are short because there’s a lot to take in, you’ll probably be in court from 10 to 4 each day, with an hour break for lunch, don’t be fooled into thinking this means it’s an easy day. You will be surprised how tired you’ll get listening to evidence all day. I was good for nothing when I got home from court - I only managed to have a gin and tonic and flop on the sofa.
3) You need to look after yourself. Take the time to do things that boost your mood – take a bath in the evenings, have a walk in the sunshine at lunchtime and bake yourself a cake.
4) Have breakfast. Just keep yourself well fed and hydrated all day. It will help you focus, help keep you awake, and prevent loud tummy rumbles during key evidence.
5) Don’t worry too much about what you wear. I kept googling “What should I wear for jury service” before I went. On the first day, I wore the dress I wear for job interviews and funerals, and others came similarly dressed up. By the end, people were in jeans and t-shirts. It was very hot the week I was on a trial so I only wore jeans on one day but I would have felt comfortable wearing black jeans and a nice top each day. Most days I wore summer dresses and sandals. I would suggest sticking to darker clothes so that you don’t stand out too much.
6) You might see the defendant out on the street. One time I walked past the defendant on the street on my way into court, it was a little unsettling to see them out on the street and not in the dock. Another member of the jury saw him at lunch and had a similar feeling. Just be prepared for that.
7) Deliberation is weird. The atmosphere in the deliberation room and the length of time you are in there will depend on the case you are doing and how it affects all of you. It might get weird – we became hysterical at one point just because we had been in a room for two days without a break. Just be kind to everyone. And make sure you have snacks.