Trial by jury

The interior of a court room

A jury in Scotland consists of 15 adults chosen at random. Anyone on the electoral register can be called for jury service. Jurors are not paid for their work but can claim expenses such as loss of earnings.

Members of a jury must be between 18 and 70 years of age. Certain people do not have to do jury service – these include ministers of religion, lawyers and police officers.

A person cannot sit on a jury if they have been on probation within five years or have been sentenced to prison, a detention centre or undertaken community service within the previous ten years.

Trial by jury is one of the strong points of the Scottish legal system. However, some people have asked whether some of the cases that go before juries might not be better dealt with by judges. One reason for this is the cost. Jury trials cost thousands of pounds and it is argued it would be cheaper if judges decided. However, others believe that trial by jury is a basic human right which gives people a fair trial.

Judges decide the punishment for someone who is convicted of an offence. The punishment is called a sentence or a disposal. There are various types of sentences with different aims, as outlined in the table below.

Idea of sentencingAim of this sentenceExamples of punishment
RetributionTo make the offender reflect, eg life in prison for murderSentence proportionate to crime
Protection of the publicTo protect society by making an offender incapable of committing further crimesJail sentence of up to two years or unlimited fine (if Jury Court)
DeterrenceTo put off the offender from re-offending and to put off others from committing crimesPrison sentences and heavy fines
Rehabilitation behaviourTo change the offenderPrison or an alternative that aims to change offenders
ReparationTo compensate the victimCompensation orders