Muir of Ord man warns jury duty confusion could be costly to the public
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A self-employed man has hit out at Scotland’s “shambolic” jury service system after contradictory instructions in his summons had him attending on the wrong day.
Welding inspector Alexander Allan (58), from Muir of Ord, only read the front of his citation which threatened him with a £1000 fine if he failed to attend Eden Court in Inverness on Monday this week.
Mr Allan and three others called to jury service attended – with Inverness Sheriff Court trials temporarily relocated to the theatre since January – only to discover a notice saying jurors were never required to attend on a Monday.
Buried on page two of the text-rich, five-page information letter was a helpline number for checking which day to attend.
Given the unpredictable nature of his work, Mr Allan says the confusing instructions could potentially cost sub-contractors like him thousands of pounds in lost earnings.
The threatening nature of correspondence added to his suspicion that the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) cares little for the cost and inconvenience to the public.
It was the third time in six years he had been cited, although he is yet to sit on a 12-person jury.
Mr Allan said: “Since I work for my own limited company, it is difficult to arrange an excusal. They only accept a letter from a permanent employer.
“My work involves short-term contracts commencing at short notice, so being unavailable through jury service can be very costly.
“On March 23, when I received the citation, I was unhappy and didn’t read any more of the five-page letter.
“I went, as instructed, to Eden Court on Monday. After 25 minutes of searching, I found a notice saying jurors never need to attend on a Monday. That just completely contradicted what was said on the front of the citation. The general public seem to be at the bottom of the heap in terms of whose needs are prioritised by the courts.
“I don’t think we should be treated like criminals and threatened with fines. The system for choosing jurors is shambolic. There must be a huge cost to the wider economy. The bottom line is the SCTS doesn’t seem to respect the general public at all.”
A spokesman for SCTS said: “It is important that all potential jurors telephone the jurors’ attendance update line on the evening before first attending court, even if this falls on a weekend. The telephone number is clearly shown on the citation.
"An unforeseen event may affect the start time of the court and last minute arrangements may have to be made for new jurors. Following the instructions on the citation and the recorded instructions on the jurors’ attendance update line helps to prevent unnecessary attendance.
"Jury service is an essential civic duty. It is important that all jurors respond to their citation in the interest of justice and those accused, victims and witnesses who rely on people undertaking this very important service.
"In order to preserve the random nature of jury citation, names are selected electronically from information supplied from the electoral register. This random selection means an individual may be selected on multiple occasions.
"Depending on circumstances, if you are excused from serving on a particular occasion, this may result in another citation being received within a relatively short timescale.
"Loss of earnings compensation for jurors is decided by the Scottish Ministers. Payments are made as compensation for loss incurred during attendance, but may not fully cover individual juror's actual loss of earnings."