Judge Blasts Absent Jurors

Bill Potts provides comments to the Gold Coast Bulletin surrounding juror obligations to the court and community;

A Southport judge has demanded to know why potential jurors who failed to front jury duty should not be prosecuted.

A pool of jurors was summoned to the Southport District Court yesterday for a trial but almost 30 did not show up, causing the trial to be delayed until today.

Judge Clive Wall QC was furious and ordered the court registrar to call in a bigger number of potential jurors today to avoid further delays.

“They should be asked to show cause why they should not be prosecuted,” he said.

Attorney-General Paul Lucas, who is considering a Queensland law Reform Commission report into jury selection, said trial by jury was a fundamental basis of the justice system.

“Potential jurors who do not turn up undermine that very democracy that they might one day themselves benefit from,” he said.

According to the Legal Aid Queensland website, anyone failing to attend jury duty risks a fine or even being in contempt of court.

In court yesterday, 26 potential jurors were ready to be called. However at least 28 are required to proceed to jury selection and 12 go on to be empanelled.

Bond University assistant professor of law Jodie O’Leary said reasons for the no-show could include lack of financial reward for jury duty and missing work.

“Jurors aren’t seeing the value in attending duty when any pay is a minimal amount,” she said.

“If anything, it’s a legislative role and parliamentarians should start talking to people about it and attract a reflective compensation.”

Jurors in a trial are paid $105 daily and are given allowances to cover lunch and public transport.

They are not paid until the end of jury duty. Potential jurors are paid $35 for the two to three hours they spend waiting each day to find out if they are needed.

High-profile Gold Coast lawyer Bill Potts, who is not involved in the trial, said it was easy for people to be distracted by events such as motor races, football and horse racing.

“People put personal conveniences in front of their civic duty,” Mr Potts said.

Despite this, he said the Gold Coast courts had faced few problems with juror numbers over the years.

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