Doctors called for jury service

This page provides broad guidance for doctors who are summoned by the court to participate in jury service.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 3 March 2021
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What you will learn

  • Your obligations when summoned
  • The impact on your salary/earnings and how to claim expenses
  • How to apply for a deferral or excusal from jury service
  • Performing jury service during COVID-19
  • The implications for junior doctors with respect to their training
  • Guidance for independent contractor doctors

 

Overview of jury service

Jurors are chosen randomly from the electoral register. As a juror, you will be part of a jury of 12 people to decide the outcome of a criminal trial. You will be informed that you have been selected by receiving a jury summons, which is sent to potential jurors via post. The jury summons will inform you of the date of the trial you have been summoned to be a juror on.

Jury service usually lasts up to 10 working days. If the trial is likely to last longer than 10 days, you will be notified of this by jury staff. If the trial is shorter than 10 days, you may be asked to be a juror on other trials.

If enrolled on the electoral register, members of the medical profession will be eligible to serve on a jury and may receive a jury summons at any time. Any person summoned to sit on a jury can request to be excused, in which case you will still be required to reply to your jury summons and submit a request to be excused from jury service.

In doing so, you will be required to outline the circumstances, whether it be professional and/or personal, that may prevent you from participating as a juror. During the current pandemic, we would expect doctors working on the frontline to be eligible to be excused from jury service. Further details regarding this are outlined below.

If you receive a jury service summons, you must respond within 7 days of receipt to confirm whether you are able to attend. To respond to a jury service summons, you can either:

Failure to return the form or turn up for your appointed jury service can result in a fine of up to £1,000.

Prior to confirming your participation, it is vital that you notify your employer as soon as possible after receiving a summons for jury duty and provide them with a copy of the summons. This will allow them to assess their business needs.

Your employer must let you have time off work, but they may request that you apply to defer or withdraw from jury duty if your absence may have an impact on your employer’s ability to provide a high quality of care and service to patients.

 

Deferring the date of your jury service

If you cannot perform jury service on the dates outlined in your summons letter, you can ask to change the date of service to another date within the next 12 months. You can only ask to change the date you would sit on a jury once. You must provide a good reason for requesting a change in service date. However, the courts endeavour to be accommodating of such requests, particularly for doctors who can demonstrate the impact their time away from work could have on the provision of health services.

To request a change of date, reply to your jury summons giving your reasoning. When you reply, we recommend that you provide at least 3 possible alternative dates in the next 12 months that you could sit on a jury. The Summoning Bureau will consider your application, and will normally respond within 10 working days either confirming your deferral and the date of your future jury service, or declining the application. During the pandemic, allowances should be made for delays to this process.

 

Requesting an excusal from service

If serving as a juror is not possible, and there are no periods over the following 12 months when you would be able to attend court as a juror, you may apply for a discretionary excusal. All applications for discretionary excusal are considered on an individual basis and will only be granted if very good reasons are provided. Those over the age of 70 or who have served on a jury in the previous two years can cite these as reasons to be excused. Deferral will always be considered in the first instance.

To request an excusal, you must reply to your original jury summons within 7 days, noting your inability to take part as juror during the next 12 months. You will need to clearly demonstrate that there will be no opportunity for you to sit on a jury within the next 12 months and outline the reasons for this, including providing documentation that would support this.

It is the individual’s responsibility to apply for deferral or discretionary excusal. Your employer cannot apply on your behalf, although it would be beneficial when stating your reasons for your application to have discussed this with your employer beforehand. It is important to outline in your request all of the implications that your absence from practising will likely have.

When specifying your reasoning, we recommend that you refer to some of the points listed below (if applicable):

  • any negative implications for service delivery if you attended court;
  • if your colleagues are on leave during the time you have been summoned or work in a Trust where cover would be difficult to arrange; and
  • if you have specialist expertise that cannot be covered by your colleague(s) or it would be difficult to arrange locum cover in your absence.

Specific guidance for demonstrating the impact of jury service on junior doctors is outlined below.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland

If you are a medical practitioner registered with the GMC in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you will be eligible to be excused from jury service. However, you still must apply for this excusal, demonstrating that you are indeed a medical practitioner to the court. The same protocol as set out above would apply with regard to the application process for an excusal and replying within 7 days of receiving your jury summons would apply here. Should you not apply within the 7-day timeframe, please be advised that this may affect your eligibility for an excusal.

 

Deferrals and excusals during COVID-19

At this time, we understand the incredibly busy period that the NHS and wider healthcare sector is currently enduring. Should you receive a jury summons during this period, we would recommend that you respond with proof that you are a frontline worker within the NHS. Based on the expectation set by the Government, this should ensure that you do not have to carry out jury service during this period.

This position is held with reference to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Chris Philip MP’s, who commented that “the Government does not expect frontline emergency services staff, including those in the NHS, to be serving on juries”.

However, you are not automatically entitled to a deferral or excusal from jury service, and, as part of the election roll, the courts may still send you a jury summons as this is done at random.

During the pandemic, we have been made aware of doctors who have had applications to be excused from jury service rejected by the Jury Central Summoning Bureau, despite them being a key worker at the NHS. Unfortunately, these decisions appear to have been made contrary to the statements provided by the Minister on this matter and Government guidance to HMCTS to help their staff deal sympathetically with all requests from the public who wish to be released or deferred from jury service as a result of COVID-19.

On 20 January 2021, we wrote to the Minister notifying him of this issue and seeking his assurance and commitment to ensuring that doctors will not be expected to perform jury service at a time when their medical skills are needed more than ever. We will continue to pursue this matter on behalf of our members.

 

Appealing decisions regarding deferrals and excusals

If you disagree with a decision made in relation to a request to defer or be excused from jury service, you can write to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau appealing the decision. In doing so, you should inform them of your juror number, why you disagree with the decision, your name and address, your date of birth, the name and address of the court you have been summoned to, the dates of your jury service, and, importantly, your reason for appealing the decision.

Read further information regarding the appeals process, including how to submit your appeal via post or email.

 

Your pay and leave during jury service

Should you agree to sit on a jury, you do not have an automatic right to continue receiving pay from your employer during the period you are absent.

Our expectation is that employers should continue to pay your regular salary during your jury service. However, this is at the discretion of your employer. Their position on this should be set out in their special leave policy. If it is not, we recommend that you clarify this with your employer as soon as possible. When deciding whether to request a deferral or excusal, ensure you know your Trust’s special leave policy and raise your summons with your employer.

Should your employer not have a special leave policy, and are unwilling to continue paying your salary whilst you serve on a jury, you will be eligible to claim for loss of earnings from the court, as set out below.

Doctors are not required and are under no obligation to take any form of leave to take part in jury service. As noted, you are obligated to take part if you are summoned, subject to your individual circumstances. Your employer must let you have time off work to take part in jury service, but can ask you to delay your jury service if your absence will have a serious effect on their practice, as set out above.

 

Claiming expenses

If you sit as a juror, you will be eligible to claim a variety of expenses from the court. This will be subject to whether your salary will continue to be paid by your employer, and the length of time you sit on a jury. Expenses must be submitted following the conclusion of your time as a juror, but no more than 12 months after your jury service.

Should your employer have a special leave policy that would allow for your salary to continue to be paid throughout your time as a juror, you will only be eligible for travel and food expenses from the court.

You can be reimbursed subject to a maximum daily amount if your absence from work causes you to incur:

  • a loss of earnings; or
  • requiring any other necessary expense, including a childminder.

For each day you are at court, you can usually claim:

  • up to a maximum of £64.95 per day towards your loss of earnings, and any care or childcare costs outside of your usual arrangements (this increases for any days of the trial past the tenth day);
  • £5.71 for food and drink per day (increased to £12.17 should you sit on a jury for more than 10 hours in a day); and
  • the cost of travel to and from court.

Read further information regarding how to make a claim. There is also an expense calculator which can estimate the size of your claim.

 

Junior doctors and the impact of jury service on training

Should a trainee receive a jury summons, the trainee must advise the Trust and the Postgraduate Dean that they have been summoned to attend jury service, in the same manner as they would were they absent owing to ill health.

If the trainee is taking time off from the training programme for jury service, and the sum of this time off alongside other absences exceeds 14 days in any 12-month period, then a review of training may be undertaken, and the expected end of training date may be adjusted if required.

We recognise the impact sitting as a juror may have on a member’s training. If you consider that performing jury service would be detrimental to your training, we recommend that you apply for a deferral or excusal. In doing so, you should cite what you consider the impact of taking part in a jury would have on your training is.

When submitting an application to have your jury service deferred or to be excused from jury service, possible justification could include:

  • if serving on a jury would jeopardise the likelihood of getting experience or training signed off by the deanery on schedule
  • if serving on a jury might extend beyond the end of your current contract, thus rendering the time served in post too short for it to be recognised for training by the relevant royal college, and making the search for the next post impossible;
  • if attendance in court would significantly interfere with a crucial stage of your training and/or examinations; or
  • if the timing of your jury service coincides with the application or interview stage for new posts.

 

GPs and independent contractors

GPs are in a slightly different position with regard to jury service as they are not directly employed by the NHS.

GP principals (who usually work in partnerships and may themselves employ other, salaried, GPs) are contracted to NHS England for the work that they do. Therefore, issues around leave and pay will be dealt with differently.

The loss of earnings is likely to be greater than the allowances set out above, and GPs may find themselves out of pocket as a result.