Monday 24 April 2017

Jury no-shows to have names passed to Gardaí as thousands go unpunished despite threat of heavy fines

Some 7,350 people failed to turn up to jury duty when summoned in 2015
Some 7,350 people failed to turn up to jury duty when summoned in 2015

David Kearns

Court Service to pass on jury no-shows to Gardaí as thousands who shirk jury service gone unpunished despite the threat of heavy fines.

Of the 7,359 people who were no-shows when summoned by the courts in 2015, not a single one was prosecuted under new laws introduced eight years ago to compel jurors to show up.

The Courts Service are now planning a new crackdown on those shirking jury duty, saying that those who fail to show up when summoned will have their name passed on to Gardaí.

“We are now introducing a system of routinely passing on information to gardaí regarding those who fail to report for jury service. “It will be a matter for An Garda Síochána to initiate any prosecution,” a spokesperson told the Irish Mail.

In an amendment to the 1976 Juries Act, fines for failing to turn up following a summons were increased from €50 to €500. However, according to figures released by the Courts Service to the Irish Daily Mail, there was not a single offender prosecuted last year despite the 2008 amendment.

Asked about the lack of prosecutions in 2015, a Garda spokesperson said such matters were investigated only after they had been referred from the courts service.

The Courts Service say about 100,000 people are called every year for jury service, and, of that amount, about a third are automatically excused because their profession bars them from serving on a jury.

Another third are excused by the judge or the county registrar for legitimate excuses such as illness or a connection with a party in a trial.

This leaves about 33,000 people eligible to sit on a jury at courts around the country.

In regards to no-shows, Dublin has the highest number of people failing to report for jury duty. In 2015, some 3,321 people registered in the capital failed to attend when summoned.

Other countries were jurors failing to show up for duty include Louth (1,266), Limerick (689), Clare (501), and Westmeath (327).

A spokesperson for the Court Services said that while no-shows were a minority it was a persistent problem that had affected trials.

Jury selection in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank executive William McAteer, and three co-accused, in January had to been adjourned for a week after Dublin Circuit Criminal Court ran out of potential jurors.

And in 2011, many cases at Ennis Circuit Court had to be adjourned because of the 250 people summoned, just 35 showed up.

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