Criminal Justice Inspectorate publishes findings of juror management inspection
Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has today published the findings of its inspection of the management of jurors by the Northern Ireland Court Service (NICtS).
The report assessed the experience of those summonsed as jurors from the point of notification and summons through to their arrival at court, to the pre-trial, trial and post-trial stages.
“This inspection found the Court Service was meeting the demands of the criminal justice system by providing sufficient numbers of jurors to ensure the smooth running of criminal trials,” said Brendan McGuigan, Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“Inspectors also found that the NICtS was working to avoid any unnecessary delays due to insufficient juror numbers, and that Court Service staff had adopted a customer service excellence approach in order to ensure the experience of those called for jury service was a positive one,” he said.
Mr McGuigan said that 93% of jurors spoken to as part of the inspection had indicated they had a good or satisfactory experience of jury service and 63% of respondents felt they had made a positive contribution to the justice system.
In an effort to further strengthen the management of jurors, Mr McGuigan said Inspectors had recommended that further work should be undertaken to improve the numbers of jurors being utilised within the criminal justice system.
“Our report indicated that while the demands of the criminal justice system were being met, the numbers of jurors called regularly exceeded the number actually required.
“As research in England and Wales has suggested that utilisation rates are linked to levels of juror satisfaction and confidence, operating with optimum number of jurors would improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of the management and administration of jury service,” he said.
Mr McGuigan said this was an issue the Court Service was aware of and one where it had demonstrated a desire to continue to improve.
The Deputy Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice indicated the report had also recommended that agreeing and implementing draft guidelines to standardise decision making around those potential jurors who had been excused their jury service or had it deferred, would also be a positive step.
In an effort to further strengthen current juror management arrangements, Inspectors urged the Court Service to continue to assess its court venues to ensure ease of access for jurors with disabilities, and to take action to improve accessibility to enable disabled people to play a full part in jury service.
The report also recommends further information be made available to employers so that they are clear as to the obligations of employees engaged on jury service.
In conclusion Mr McGuigan said: “The overall message from this inspection was a positive one and Inspectors believe the existing arrangements can be further strengthened through the implementation of the eight recommendations contained in this inspection report.