Should we be pay­ing ju­rors more for ser­vice?

Whangarei Report - - OPINION - By Dr Shane Reti Whangarei MP

Is it time to re­vise pay­ment rates for ju­rors? Lately I have had sev­eral queries to my of­fice re­gard­ing the pay­ment rate to ju­rors for jury ser­vice time.

Jury ser­vice is paid at $31 per half day for the first five days and rises to $89 per day af­ter that. The ques­tion was also asked if any con­sid­er­a­tion would be be­ing given to pay eq­uity. I am aware that some em­ploy­ers make up any dif­fer­ence, but th­ese are good ques­tions.

Seek­ing an­swers, I wrote to the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice: “What steps is the Min­is­ter tak­ing to im­prove pay rates for ju­rors who un­der­take jury ser­vice?” and “Will the Min­is­ter con­sider ju­ror ‘pay eq­uity’ so that ju­rors who had to take time off work could re­ceive com­pen­sa­tion com­men­su­rate with their cur­rent hourly rates of pay?” The re­sponse I re­ceived was that there are cur­rently no plans to re­view the fees and ex­penses paid to ju­rors at this time.

The is­sue of jury ser­vice pay is an in­ter­est­ing dis­cus­sion and my line of ques­tion­ing was sub­se­quently picked up by the Law So­ci­ety.

The Min­istry of Jus­tice web­site states that jury ser­vice pay is not meant to re­place lost earn­ings and is more of a thank you for ser­vice. The re­sponse I re­ceived shows this gov­ern­ment is clearly not pre­pared to re­view pay­ments. How­ever, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment’s Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, the Hon Amy Adams, is on record as be­ing pre­pared to relook at the whole is­sue. The prin­ci­ple that, in a demo­cratic so­ci­ety, we all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity for jus­tice which in­cludes jury ser­vice, and a jury that best rep­re­sents a cross sec­tion of so­ci­ety, is sound.

One of the ques­tions to raise then is whether we achieve this with a mech­a­nism that may pe­nalise wage and salary work­ers for un­der­tak­ing jury ser­vice, or is this just the price of democ­racy? Do wage and salary earn­ers, who may be tak­ing a loss for un­der­tak­ing jury ser­vice, per­form with the best mind set and com­po­sure, or does the knowl­edge of po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial loss pre­dis­pose a Day 1 nega­tive at­ti­tude and clock watch­ing, nei­ther of which we want in a jury? I am in­ter­ested to hear your views on this topic. Join the con­ver­sa­tion on my Face­book page.

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