Field trial on hold because jurors can’t afford the time

April 21, 2009

The trial of former Labour MP Phillip Field has been delayed because too many potential jurors said they couldn’t afford to serve.

The trial against former Government minister Taito Phillip Field is in “limbo” after half the jury was discharged this morning.

Seven jurors – five women and two men – were stood down by Justice Rodney Hansen at the High Court at Auckland this morning after they indicated the trial would have placed them in too much hardship.

The trial has been set down for three months.

Even three days off work could be too costly for some people unless employers were prepared to bridge the gap between the compensation jurors get and normal pay.

When trials stretch into weeks and, in this case, possibly months it puts a strain on people’s finances and also impacts on their workplaces which are left to cope without a staff member or forced to employ a temporary replacement.

Some employers are prepared to top up the pay for their staff while they’re on jury service so they’re not out of pocket but not all can afford to do this, especially for prolonged trials; and if they have to employ a stand-in they end up paying twice.

Few if any self employed people could afford more than a very short time off work either and parents of young children or other fulltime care-givers would find it difficult if not impossible to arrange alternative care for any length of time too.

Unless there is a change in the system, including recompense which matches, or nearly matches, wages forgone, juries will comprise only unemployed and retired people.


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