diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 15, 2003

Trial by Jury

I'm up in court tomorrow. On the right side of the law, I should hasten to add. My name has come up in the lucky lottery draw they call jury service, and I'm due to attend court at 9:00 tomorrow morning to find out exactly what they want to do with me. I've cleared my calendar at work for the next two weeks, I've ironed a presentable shirt and I'm all aquiver in eager expectation. If you've recently been suspected of commiting a crime in the London area then beware, your future may be partly in my hands.

Jury service is a very rare event in anyone's life. Nobody in my family has ever done jury service before, and very few other people I know can shed any light on the secret service I'm about to undertake. The Court Service scanned through the electoral roll, selected a few names at random and sent me my call-up papers in the post about six weeks before my stint was due to begin. I could have turned this summons down, or at least delayed it, had I had a really good excuse, but they've actually managed to pick the perfect time for me to abandon work for a few weeks with minimum fallout, so I'm going.

You may remember last Tuesday that two "extremely dangerous" prisoners escaped from a Securicor van during an armed ambush outside a court in south London. Two men leapt out and attacked the van just as it was about to deliver a cargo of prisoners from Brixton prison. The driver was shot in the knee, a security guard was struck with a gun, and two men escaped. It made all the news front pages and TV news broadcasts. And the court outside which all this happened? Yes, the one I'm going to tomorrow. Delightful. Ah well, I'm sure I'll be safer tucked up inside the court than hanging around on the streets outside.

I have to be at Blackfriars Crown Court first thing tomorrow morning. This sounds rather glamorous, a bewigged world of City justice, until you read the small-print of the address and realise that you're going to be stuck in a building halfway between London Bridge and Elephant and Castle. Lovely. Ah well, I'm sure the events inside the building will be more interesting than the area around it. I get to watch a video about being a juror, and then to hang around in the waiting-room until I'm called in to attend a case. Even once I'm in the court room they still select the twelve jurors at random using cards, so I may get sent straight back out again to wait for another case, or even not get picked at all.

I'm advised that jurors in Crown Courts normally try the more serious cases like murder, rape, assault, burglary or fraud, so at least it sounds interesting. I'm advised to take a good book to read during any long waits there may be (I've bought three - one about mindless violence, one about drug-dealing and one about marital infidelity, just so that I'm ready for anything). I'm advised not to take a mobile phone or a personal stereo because I'll have to leave them outside the courtroom. And, of course, I'm advised that I must never discuss the case with anyone who is not a member of my jury. So, come back here tomorrow and I'll tell you all about my first day at court. And absolutely nothing of any importance.

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