So, after avoiding any civil duties for the best part of 20 years, I was finally called up for jury service this month. Nothing exciting, sadly, just the local Sheriff Court.
And, ooh, what a palaver! Let me take you through the past few days...
On Tuesday, after work, I called the Sheriff Court, to be told that the Wednesday morning sitting had been postponed to Friday. Since I was meant to be working on Friday night, this necessitated a call to work, to sort out someone to turn up in my place (at work, not in court, I hasten to add), in case I was picked for the jury (about a 1 in 3 chance, apparently), and it went on a bit.
On Thursday, I called again, and, yep, we were on.
On Friday, the Wife dropped me by the court, and went off to Tesco, telling me she'd hang round in case the case was delayed again. I showed up in court, with dozens of other prospective jurors, and waited. And waited some more. Eventually, the Sheriff himself turned up, and we were off. Or rather, we were off home, since it turned out that getting witnesses to show up for court appearances is not as easy as one might expect. Come back Monday, they said.
Oh well, said I, and, after calling and cancelling the chap who had been going to come in for me, I called the Wife to come pick me up. Oh dear, said she, I have gone shopping elsewhere with my pal, and am twenty miles hence. I can come get you, but it will be some time. Not to worry, said I, I'll catch one of them that buses that are roaring past every few minutes.
To the bus stop, then, where I discover that, although there are buses home, they run every two hours, and I have just missed one. No taxis to be seen either. What is a boy to do? Wait an hour and a half for a bus? Why, it can't be much more than an hour's stroll home from here! And I can avoid all that nasty getting hit by cars nonsense, by strolling along the canal, which, handily goes all the way home.
Only, of course, there's the small matter that the canal doesn't exactly go straight home. Rather, it arcs around most of the county, adding a couple of extra miles to the journey, so that my little walk home ends up being eight and a half miles, or two and a half hours, give or take. By the time I get home, it's 3pm, and I have to leave for work in three hours, leaving little or no time for an afternoon kip. Oh, how I wish I had just phoned and told work I wasn't going to be in!
So, naturally, Friday night at work turns out to be one of those nights where we do twelve hours without a break, and then Saturday night is just as bad. By the time last night rolled round, I was just about ready to drop, but of course, there were a hundred and one things to do at work before I could flee the scene.
Got home this morning at six, grabbed a couple of hours kip, then had to take people to work, nursery, and in the case of Firstborn, to his pal's house, as the schools here celebrate Victoria Day by closing for the day. Then it was off back to the Court.
It's a complicated affair, choosing a jury. First, the assistant to the clerk of the court tells you to turn off your phones, spit out that gum, and stand up when the Sheriff walks in or out of the room. Then the clerk of the court tells you how they're going to choose the jury (by pulling names out of a goldfish bowl) and talks a bit about the case, tells you the names of the main players, and gives you a chance to duck out. Then the sheriff and the accused turn up, along with the accused's lawyers, and the "Persecutor Physical", mutter amongst themselves, and then names are picked out of the bowl.
Tragically, or perhaps, happily, my name was not picked, which saved me from having to judge the guilt or otherwise of the accused, based on "he said, she said" evidence. Having selected the jury, the clerk read out the charges: briefly, Accused A (male) allegedly beat up Victim A with a pole, whilst Accused B (female) allegedly hit Victim B with a bottle "to his severe injury, permanent disfiguration, and permanent impairment". Nice.
After the reading of the charges, one of the defence lawyers objected to one of the jurors, who was shown off the premises. A substitute juror was sworn in, again not me, and then, oddly, the clerk had to read the charges again. The jurors took the oath, and the Sheriff sent them off for a cuppa, whilst telling us we needed to hang around until the case kicked off, in case of any unforseen problems.
During the break, my favourite moment of the whole event. The accused had left the room, and one of the assistants put a large glass of water on the table for her. After a minute or so, (during which I assume the assistant read the specific charges against the lassie), the assistant came back, removed the glass, and replaced it with a nice safe plastic cup.
After yet another break, the first witness showed up to be quizzed, and then the Sheriff remembered us, and sent us packing. I have to phone again tonight, in case they decide they need some more jurors, but at this point it looks like I'm in the clear. Unfortunately, Firstborn had a bump at his pals, and decided to come home, so I am still sleep deprived.
Ah well, I'll sleep when I'm dead. Which should be quite soon, at this rate.
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