My jury service was in Cardiff Crown Courts and only lasted for 6 working days.
Turning up for serviceAt Cardiff, there is a separate entrance for jurors which is around the back of the main building. Here, you will show your summons letter to the security guard, have your handbag checked and walk through a metal detector. This will happen each time you enter the building for the duration of your service.
On your first day, you will be taken to the Jury Assembly Room (or something similar) where you will find a small canteen, tea and coffee machines, shelves of books and a load of other people. There may be quite a few trials going on at any one time so they need lots of people to be there.
Here, you will be able to spot the 'week-two-ers', who seem to exude a 'done-it-all-before' confidence and remark loudly on 'all the new faces', whilst greeting each other in shouts across the room.
Then you will all watch a video about serving on a jury and how it all works. The week-tw-ers will definitely talk through this.
Then, you go off to get your IDs checked and shown inside a courtroom so you know where everything goes.
Then you go upstairs again and wait.
Being chosen for a juryI myself had taken two books with me and was quite happy to get a good start on them during all this 'waiting around' I had been told about. But that was not to be.
Every half hour or so in the morning, selections are made. A hushed silence descends as people anticipate their names being or not being called. Even the week-two-ers shut up for this. A voice then announces a list of 15 names over the loud speaker. I felt like I was one of the aliens in Toy Story, ready to be plucked out by 'the claw'.
I was called for the third court of my first morning. I had barely got through a chapter.
The jury selectionSo, the 15 of you will be taken to the Juror's Room of whichever court you have been chosen. You will then be taken into the actual court where you will see the defendant, barristers, judge and everyone else.
At this points, the court clerk will read the names of anyone involved in the case. If you know anyone on this list, you are to tell the usher who will remove you from selection.
If no one knows anyone, the court clerk will pick 12 names at random from the 15. The three that have not been chosen will then return to the Assembly Room ready to be selected for another trial. This means that some people can get through two or three trials, and others do not get chosen for any.
So you're on the juryTake a look around, you will be spending a lot of time with these other people and will be expected to come to a unanimous decision at the end of the trial on whether you will find the defendant guilty or not.
The clerk will then read the complete list of charges against the defendant and the 3 jurors who were not picked are removed from the court.
And then it begins.
The trialEveryone really does wear wigs and gowns and refer to each other as, 'My learned friend'. It gets serious pretty quickly from then on in with the prosecution starting the proceedings and calling up their witnesses. The defence then does the same. Then, each barrister sums up their case, the judge sums up the trial and then the jury are sent off to deliberate.
You are not allowed to discuss the trial with anyone other than your fellow jurors while it is proceeding, and even then only when all 12 of you are present. You are also not allowed to Google the people involved or anything like that.
In court, you are supplied with pens and paper on which you are able to take notes which locked in a safe each night during the trial. I didn't actually take notes but some people took loads. It's completely up to you. The only time that you are allowed to take these notes out of the courtroom is when you go to deliberate your verdict.
The court would prefer unanimous decisions but if this cannot be reached, then they will accept a majority of 10-2. When you are deliberating your verdicts, you are closed in a room together and your mobile phones are taken away.
Then your elected foreman, who is in charge of keeping the deliberations on track, will be asked to state guilty or not guilty to each of the charges when read out by the clerk.
Here is a handy diagram which I lifted from the BBC website:
3. Prosecution barrister
4. Defence barrister
But what if I get a horrible case?If it's in the crown court - chances are that it's not going to be a parking ticket violation or fire exit regulation. You can speak to the Samaritans during and after the trial if you feel that you need to. It's also nice to have 11 other people from all walks of life who are in the same boat as you. Juries are meant to be a cross-section of society and they really are - you'll come to learn each other's skills and weaknesses as well as forming a good support structure.
And also if helps to do what I did with my fellow jurors after our trial - go to the Pen and Wig and drink a load of cider. Seriously, you'll need to get it off your chest!