12 Jul 2013

Jail term for refusing to serve on jury

10:28 pm on 12 July 2013

A judge has sentenced an Auckland man to 10 days in prison for refusing to serve on a jury.

At the Auckland District Court on Wednesday, James McAllister told Judge Nevin Dawson that he was too busy at work to serve on a jury trial and refused to take an oath.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows. Photo: RNZ

The engineering consultant later said he would serve if it would avert a mistrial, but the judge found him in contempt of court and sentenced him on Thursday.

In his decision, Judge Dawson said many other people who serve on juries face work pressures and McAllister's actions were a deliberate attempt to improperly manipulate the situation.

McAllister's lawyer David Jones said his client was just trying to be honest with the court. He has lodged an appeal at the High Court and McAllister is on bail until that is dealt with.

Courts Minister Chester Borrows said on Friday that people are wrong if they think they can opt out of the system and, though they may not want to do jury service, it's a social responsibility.

"If the public think that they've got a right to stand outside the justice system and refuse to take part, they're wrong. There are a lot of things that come up in life that are inconvenient, but we all belong to a civilised, democratic society and we need to play our part."

Mr Borrows said changes are being made to the courts system that should make the burden of jury service lighter, such as shorter trials and allow people to defer their jury duty.