05 December 2015

Having been cited for jury service I duly made the call on Sunday evening to be told I was required to report at 9.45am on the Monday.
Along with 44 others I arrived at the Sheriff Court and, after checking in, reported to Court 1.  We all sat down on seats that reminded you of a 1950s school classroom or a church pew,  if you were over 5ft 3ins you could not straighten your legs and with back rests so upright you almost fell forward.  No chance of falling sideways as we were packed in so tight your neighbour ensured you remained upright. 
Jury RoomWebAfter approximately one hour of sitting in this uncomfortable position we were informed that a court official had called in sick. This meant that they would have to reorganise and the case in question would be adjourned. We sat to see the accused appear from below to be granted bail until January and sent on his way - he was pleased, home for Xmas and New Year.
Sometime later it was announced that we would be required the next day for a new case to be heard. The court official proceeded to give us a full briefing on court procedure to save time the next morning and, after a total of three hours, we were dismissed for the day, helping each other to walk again on being released from our restricted seating.

"...Over the two days, 90 people averaging £100 a day for expenses totals £9,000 and this is probably a very conservative estimate.  This does not include the Sheriff, Court officer, Solicitors, Custody officers and, of course, the waste of time for the police who, presumably, could be spending their time on better things..."

Unplanned Shopping Spree
Next morning 45 of us again reported at 10am to be greeted with the news that there would be a delay as the court officials required time to familiarise themselves with the new case, we were then told the good news:  “You can all go Christmas shopping and report back to the court for 2.00pm.”  
Assembled again back in court, the court official arrived, goldfish bowl in hand, announcing that only 15 of the 45 would be selected and the remainder would be dismissed to continue their Xmas shopping. But hold on, another official appeared to report that the court cannot proceed with the case as the main witness had not appeared. The sheriff eventually took his place and we watched another defendant granted bail and sent on his way for Xmas. He then expressed his thanks and apologies, commenting that this is a fairly regular occurrence and thanked us all for attending. There was no need to return as another body of 45 people had been cited for the next day.
Over the two days, 90 people averaging £100 a day for expenses totals £9,000 and this is probably a very conservative estimate.  This does not include the Sheriff, Court officer, Solicitors, Custody officers and, of course, the waste of time for the police who, presumably, could be spending their time on better things. 
Has the whole justice system gone mad? This was only a single, two day period in one court.  On 4 December the Courier reported that Sheriff Richard Davidson called ‘for P45s’ as he highlighted that 30 police officers and around 50 potential jurors were kept in court in a similar situation in Dundee, for a case that was just not going to happen. 
Now how much is the cost of this one to the public? Looking on the bright side, we all managed some Xmas shopping and had lunch on the system; those not retired would get paid regardless, and the accused who was in custody got home in time for Xmas. 
Should you ever be cited be sure to take your credit card and shopping bags as you may just be treated to an unexpected day out in Perth.  

Stewart McNeish, Aberfeldy

 

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