Section 63 of the Act prescribes a maximum penalty of 20 penalty units, which is currently equivalent to $2,200, for anyone who fails to attend for jury service after being summoned to do so.
It is a defence to a prosecution under the section where a person establishes on the balance of probabilities that he or she had a “reasonable excuse” for not attending.
Such excuses may include an accident on the way to court, a severe illness or injury which prohibited attendance or another unavoidable misadventure.
The rule is subject to section 64 which requires the sheriff to serve a notice upon a person who fails to appear to the effect that, rather than being prosecuted, the person can receive a penalty notice equivalent to 10 penalty units, or $1,100, which must be paid within a specified period of time.
The sheriff is prohibited from prosecuting the person in court in the event that the fine is paid by the deadline.
Section 66 makes it clear that payment of the fine does not amount to an admission of liability.
Rather than pay the fine, a person deemed to have failed to attend may choose instead to “show cause” by the stated time as to why he or she should not be required to pay.
Like a “reasonable excuse”, this would require the person to outline the reasons as to why he or she did not attend.
In that event, the sheriff may require the person to execute a statutory declaration verifying the matters relied upon to show cause. Supporting evidence may also be required.
If the sheriff decides that sufficient cause has been shown, the person will not be liable for the fine.
If the sheriff determines otherwise, the person will be given further time to pay the fine.
If the person does not pay the fine by the specified time, the sheriff may prosecute the person in court by issuing them with a court attendance notice.
Supplying false or misleading information to sheriff
As previously reported, Schedule 1 of the Act outlines the circumstances in which a person is excluded from jury service and Schedule 2 lists the categories of persons entitled to an exemption.
A person is required to inform the sheriff of the fact they are excluded, and may apply for an exemption, before the date they are required to attend court or a coronial inquest.
Section 62 makes it an offence punishable by a fine of up to 50 penalty units, or $5,500, for a person to provide information or produce material to the sheriff which the person knows to be false or misleading in a material respect when advising of an exclusion or entitlement to an exemption, when requesting an exemption, applying for deferral of service, advising of unavailability or claiming a payment. The person is equally liable if they cause another person to make such a representation for the purpose of evading jury service.
Failing to inform sheriff of exclusion from jury service
Section 62A makes it an offence punishable by a fine of up to 10 penalty units, or $1,100, for a person to knowingly fail to inform the sheriff before the date of attending for jury service that he or she is an excluded person, and the reason for the exclusion.