Trial by a jury of one’s peers is a crucial and long established feature of our justice system and jury service is one of the most important civic duties that anyone can be asked to perform. Currently the Juries Act 1974 specifies that the upper age limit for jury service in England and Wales is 70. The upper limit was last amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which raised it from 65 to 70.
The previous Government consulted on changing the age limit. We have spent time considering the responses to that consultation, and the views of those who have written to us (and asked parliamentary questions) about this. We have now come to the conclusion that the age limit should be increased.
The health and well-being of those over 70 has improved significantly since the age limit was last set 25 years ago and it is right that this should be reflected in a higher upper age limit for jury service. Data from the Office for National Statistics show that, on average, people in England and Wales can expect to be “disability free” until they are 75. We believe that it is fair to expect people below this age to sit as jurors.
Over the age of 75, an increasing number of people would find it difficult or impossible to sit as jurors and would therefore seek to be excused from jury service. Rather than put them through the process of applying for excusal, and spend taxpayers’ money dealing with this additional administrative burden, we are increasing the upper age limit to 75.
Existing statutory provision allows anyone summoned for jury service, including, in future, those over 70, to seek to be excused, where there is a good reason for this.
While the main motivation for increasing the upper age limit is to make juries more representative of all the people who are playing a full part in their communities, we do expect some savings to result from a reduction in the number of jurors in full-time employment. This will reduce the number of employers who have to pay staff who are on jury service, and the costs to Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service of paying for loss of earnings. The only costs involved in implementing this policy will be minor changes to our systems, and to the relevant forms and guidance.
Raising the upper age limit for jury service to 75 will involve amending the Juries Act 1974 by taking primary legislation through Parliament. We expect this legislation to be introduced early next year.