Jury Service in Scotland

Edinburgh Sheriff Court called me up for jury service. This is an important responsibility, but because you are not allowed to discuss the trial as a juror there’s no information out on the internets about what happens and no guidance about how you should come to a decision. I turned up and was surprised to find the viewing seats were full. Scotland has a (large) jury of 15 but the pool they are picked from on the day was about 50, I didn’t work out why there needs to be a large pool to pick from since we are already picked from the electoral register at random. We shuffled in and I was surprised we were amongst the accused, the claimant and both their families. Fiscal and lawyer and clerk muttered in hushed tones to each other in turn and wandered in and out the room. We were dismissed and told to come back later. We came back for more of the same and were dismissed again.

After some lunch we reconvened and were told he had decided to plead guilty to some of the accusations and the crown had accepted the plea and this was the reason for the delays. The Procurator Fiscal read out to the judge who the accused was, a gent who lived with a woman and acted as father to her children over about 15 years. She read out his various sexual abuse acts in technical detail to the Sheriff all of which was very uncomfortable to sit through. A woman stormed out shouting “burn in hell”. The claimant ran out in tears. The accused had originally said he didn’t remember any of the incidents and suffered from blackouts after drinking. To some of the questions he had given no response. If he had continued to insist on his innocence and I don’t know what the correct way to make a decision would have been. The circumstances seemed to point to guilt but how could I say which of the particular incidents with no evidence and no witnesses except the claimant did or didn’t happen without letting prejudices (fat skinhead paedophile) get in the way?

The Sheriff called for reports from social services for guidance in sentencing, she said he may get a prison sentence for these serious crimes. I wonder if the claimant will find justice to be served and I wonder if the accused will get help for his problem, I suspect neither is possible. Justice is hard to get right and I’m a bit relieved not to have had to make such a decision without any guidance.

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