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I wonder if the courts administration will compare pre-and post-DVD results.
Lisa Davies

May 14, 2012 – 10:44AM

It’s a simple realisation that costs the taxpayer up to $250,000 a year.

A jury is empanelled and the trial gets under way – then, on the second day, a juror sends a note saying he or she can no longer impartially judge the facts of the case.

It’s infuriating for all involved and results in the whole jury being discharged and the start of a new trial.

Now a new DVD released by the Attorney-General seeks to halt that inconvenient occurrence which costs at least $8000 for each day lost.

In addition to court costs there are significant costs for the DPP, police and legal aid, the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, said.

“When it costs around $8000 [a day] to run a jury trial, it is important people take their civic duty seriously,” Mr Smith said. “Hopefully this DVD will make people think seriously about what that duty means.”

The DVD, titled Welcome to Jury Service, explains the jury process and highlights the need for prospective jurors to inform the court if they have concerns about serving on a trial.

“The Sheriff’s Office estimates that two to three mistrials occur each month due to jurors being discharged, causing delays to the court and placing significant financial burden upon the state,” Mr Smith said.

“Some mistrials are the result of jurors not declaring issues affecting their ability to serve until after the trial had started.”

Mr Smith said prospective jurors are given ample opportunity to apply to be excused from a trial before it begins, but many are reluctant to speak up because they feel embarrassed or overwhelmed.

The DVD informs prospective jurors that they have the option of writing down the reason they wish to be excused, in case they are reluctant to announce it publicly.

The District Court judge Penny Hock speaks to jurors in the DVD, saying: “Unfortunately, far too often prospective jurors who may not be able to serve for good reason wait and hope that they are not selected and then raise the problem when they have been selected.”

The NSW Chief Justice, Tom Bathurst, QC, said the DVD is informative, accessible and inclusive.

Mr Smith said legislation to improve jury selection would also be under consideration shortly.

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