A get out of gaol free card. Well, more or less. Almost like escaping from hospital!
Last year, Partner was called for jury service.
‘That will be an interesting experience for you,’ I said loftily, having sat in more court rooms than you could poke a stick at.
My first court experience was at school.
For some reason, it was deemed important that the girls at the high school went to visit the local Crown Court. Off we walked down the road in the obligatory crocodile, to pile into the gallery and gaze down at the proceedings. Crown Court was about five or ten mins walk away.
But Partner, growing up in South Wales, did not have a Crown Court nearby, nor attended a school that thought a visit to watch the legislative procedure was an essential part of education. And as he’s not a crim or a journo or a lawyer, he’d never visited court.
Nor did he want to, despite my encouragement about what a fascinating revelation jury service would be.
He attended three times and was never called.
This year, I received my summons. Most unfair. I’ve sat in boring court rooms. I’ve done the murder, GBH, goodness knows what else for days on end. I so did not want to do jury service. Suddenly that interesting experience for him was a pain in the arse for me.
For some reason, he thought it was funny. ‘Interesting’ was the word of the month.
Now, being a reporter is one thing. At least we could sneak out. Jurors have to sit there. All the time.
I felt sick. In fact, I was sick as I thought about it. Literally.
The day arrived.
Jury Service Part 1
My neighbour had been called too. I heard her door go at 9.30 and grudgingly went out a few minutes afterwards. Roll call at 9.45.
I chatted to my neighbour as she finished the dregs of her fag and we approached the Supreme Court.
Everyone stands around outside under the vines, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Names were called. Hold up your hand and stand over there.
We’d missed the introduction, so when our names were called our hearts sank.
Then, the official said, ‘you lot can relax’, uh?
More messing around went on and we continued to stand about.
Next, a different official came out.
Names were called again.
It looked like they had pieces of paper taken out of a hat.
This was the real thing.
These people had to go inside the courthouse.
My neighbour was called. OK I didn’t snigger much.
Other people were called.
Then, a long pause.
More names. Sporadically. Two, or three. And then another two or three.
And then, even more name calling.
This time, it meant marching to the front to receive a piece of paper.
‘Jurors in waiting are requested to attend the Supreme Court on …’
And off we went with a ten day reprieve.
Ironically my neighbour said the case she was on was interesting.
But the last day wasn’t so good, she said. Five hours locked in with no toilet and appalling food?!!
I heard that and started feeling sick again.
Jury Service Part 2
The next day came around. Jury service involves three appearances. After that you are dismissed. This was my second.
Same routine, except I got to hear better this time, I actually heard them say they were calling the register at 9.45. So, not calling jurors initially, just checking who hasn’t turned up so they can fine them. Or whatever.
Acknowledged my name and dutifully walked over to the law-abiding citizens’ part of the courtyard.
Then … nothing. Just nothing.
Panicking about five hours incarceration, I decided to go to the toilet. And sat down after that inside the foyer. Ankle was playing up anyway.
Some time later, we were urged to leave the foyer. Naturally those of us inside ignored it.
‘No, no, outside.’
There are no handrails up the steps to the courthouse, so on my unsteady way down, I grabbed a pillar. I’d just got stabilised when an official said, ‘Jurors in waiting are released’.
A puzzled silence ensued. No one was sure what that meant. Could we go? Were we free? And then, people started leaving, and we figured it was really true.
Over. Done with. Released. Out of jury service, free.
For another two years, anyway.
Note: Jury service in Gibraltar applies to adults between 18–65 on the electoral roll who have lived in Gibraltar for five years continuously.