Jury age limit to be raised to 75 in England and Wales

Scales of justice statue In 2010, the Council of Circuit Judges said using over-70s on juries could see "substantial disruption"

Related Stories

The upper age limit for jurors in England and Wales is to be raised from 70 to 75, the government has announced.

The move is part of Ministry of Justice plans to make the system more inclusive and to reflect modern society.

Currently only people aged 18 to 70 are eligible to sit as jurors.

Those aged 70 to 75 who are summoned as jurors would be expected to serve, though there is discretion to excuse people if they can show a good reason why they should not.

Some 178,000 people in England and Wales take part in jury service each year, but the government believes the current age limit does not take account of increases in life expectancy over the past 25 years.

Criminal Justice Minister Damian Green said the right to be tried by peers "is, and remains, a cornerstone of the British justice system laid down in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago".

Start Quote

This is a common sense reform and should be applauded”

End Quote Paul Green, Saga

"This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process," he added.

Groups representing the elderly have welcomed the move.

Paul Green, director of Saga, which specialises in products and services for the over-50s, said: "Older people have a great deal of life experience and many remain astute, savvy and mentally agile well into later life and will be a valued addition to any jury.

"This is a common sense reform and should be applauded."

In Scotland, a ban on over-65s serving as jurors was lifted in 2011.

Those aged 71 and over who do not want - or feel able - to serve on a jury have the right to be excused.

The upper age limit in Northern Ireland remains at 70, while those aged 65-69 can choose not to serve.

But, following a public consultation, plans are afoot to abolish the upper age limit and increase the age at which people can choose not to serve to 70.

'Days lost'

The age range for jurors in England and Wales was last amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which raised the upper limit from 65 to 70.

However, between 1988 and 2004, those in the 65-70 age group who were called could be automatically excused.

From 2004, those in that age range could only be excused if they provided a good reason.

Jurors in England and Wales

  • Aged between 18 and 70
  • Listed on electoral register
  • Have lived in UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for any five-year period since aged 13

Under the change announced on Tuesday, those aged between 70 and 75 who are summoned will be treated like all other jurors - they will be expected to serve.

But they could be excused for reasons such as a medical condition which prevents them serving, or significant caring responsibilities.

The change to the age limit will require primary legislation which will be brought forward early next year.

Some experts, including University College London Jury Project director Prof Cheryl Thomas, believe the announcement is long overdue.

Start Quote

Proceedings might be hampered by poor hearing, poor vision or physical disability”

End Quote Council of Circuit Judges in 2010

"Virtually every other common law jurisdiction that has a jury system currently has no upper age limit at all for jury service," she said.

"This new policy change will bring England and Wales up to speed with the rest of the common law systems."

In 2010, the Council of Circuit Judges warned that allowing people aged over 70 to serve on juries could lead to "substantial disruption" to criminal trials.

"There would, inevitably, be an increase in 'days lost' as a result of illness or incapacity," it said.

"Proceedings might be hampered by poor hearing, poor vision or physical disability."

The retirement age for judges was reduced from 75 to 70 some 20 years ago.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    Jurors of 70 or over are able to contribute sensibly to a crown court hearing. A cross section of society is essential to our jury system, and that means the elderly as well as the younger members. Also barryp, it is essential that a jury or magistrates bench do not have any personal knowledge of an individual before them. As a retired magistrate having also sat at crown court it is so important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    A stupid, stupid idea.
    All civic and public services should have a maximum age limit of 70, that is including judges/MPs/council dignitaries/senior policemen/ indeed anybody that has responsibility for others lives and careers. That way fresh new ideas with broad outlooks can enhance our society.
    The future needs fresh blood and not outmoded thinking. Let the new generation take the strain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    When the Jury system was developed it was with Local jurists who knew the accused, and the accuser and could make a rational decision on the evidence given, Now we have Juries drawn from miles away, who are not allowed to know anyone involved in the trial and are led by Barristers who at best are motivated by idealism at worse by money.Jury trial does not serve Justice, only Law

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Take with the increase of the age limit, now the courts will adapt facilities?

    Shorter periods in adjournments? as in toilet breaks? hard of hearing systems for the older jurors with hearing problems

    But a good idea, especially in winter months, sitting in a warm court, saving on fuel bills that the government pay extra fuel allow to.

    Yes a bit sarcastic, but think i am right

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I agree with Jury service but I am not going to pretend that it is anything but a tedious and boring chore, having done it once I don`t want to do it again. Raising the upper age threshold has nothing to do with being inclusive, it is because we have a large section of society becoming eligible to undertake jury service who will flatly refuse to do it


Comments 5 of 9


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.