Tuesday 22 January 2019

No crackdown on those shirking jury duty as Tipp tops the no-shows at 62pc

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Stock photo
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A planned crackdown on people not showing up for jury duty will not take place, because legislative requirements to issue prosecutions would cripple the Courts Service's manpower.

Legislative changes introduced in 2008 saw fines heavily increased for cases where someone was in breach of an order to appear for jury duty.

Despite the fines being upped from €50 to €500, the threat did not prove to be a sufficient deterrent and it meant there were still thousands of no-shows at courts around the country every year.

Proposals were then put in place to enable the Garda and Courts Service to bring prosecutions against people who fail to show up when summoned for jury duty.

The Sunday Independent was told that this is largely because Court Service staff would have to appear at every case where a person was being prosecuted for failing to appear in court after receiving a summons for jury duty.

Officials had hoped to be able to sign sworn affidavits to issue the prosecutions - but current legislation does not allow for such measures.

"There is a difficulty with prosecuting them, and it would require a court clerk or court representative to appear before every single case," a source told the Sunday Independent. "You could not do it in one batch by signing an affidavit."

The Courts Service sought legal advice on prosecuting people who do not show up for jury duty - but was told that staff members would have to appear in court for each case to confirm they sent out a summons, and to state if a person did not show up after the summons was sent.

It comes as figures reveal 62pc of people who were called for jury service in Tipperary last year failed to attend court. The figure is the highest rate of no-shows in the country.

Court Service figures show more than 120,000 people were called for jury service last year. However, 12,214 (or 10pc) of those summoned failed to appear.

In Co Tipperary, a total of 6,750 were asked to appear before the courts for jury selection. However, just 2,565 actually adhered to the order.

There are no figures available for the number of people who failed to appear for jury duty in Tipperary in 2016. However, in 2014 and 2015, 18.6pc and 14.5pc failed to attend.

Dublin is second in the table counting those who failed to attend. However, it also called the largest number of people for jury service.

Last year, 38,950 people were called in Dublin and 2,535 failed to show up - a rate of just 15.3pc for people not attending.

No one has been prosecuted for shirking jury duty.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said the numbers of people attending for service has increased over the past 15 years.

Non-attendees for jury service in Dublin amounted to approximately 34pc in 2003. The equivalent figure for Carlow Circuit Court in 2004 amounted to 18.9pc.

The Courts Service spokesman added it was difficult to bring prosecutions against such cases.

"We had explored the possibility of introducing systems where we would routinely report no-shows for jury service, to the Garda," said the spokesman. "However there are legal difficulties in furthering the process to prosecution with ease. At times, people were reported and prosecuted for non attendance - but usually only when a judge instructed such action."

He added that about half of those summoned for jury service are excused from doing so automatically due to their position, job or profession; or because they are barred from service for other reasons, such as serving a prison sentence in the past number of years.

Of those who appear, some can be legitimately excused for personal reasons.

Sunday Independent

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