THE upper age limit for jurors in England and Wales is to be increased from 70 to 75, it has been announced.
The increase is part of plans by the Ministry of Justice to make the system ‘reflect modern society’.
Currently only people aged 18 to 70 are eligible to sit as jurors. However, under the new plans announced yesterday, those aged up to 75 could be called upon.
The change to the age limit, which requires primary legislation, could be brought into force early next year.
Tim Hall, 60, publicity and development officer for Devon Senior Voice, said the change would be beneficial to the legal system.
He said: “In principal, it’s an excellent idea. The population is growing and people are active for longer.
“It is very important that there are a good range of peers as many people are still active.
He also said the pool of jurors “would be bigger” which would be of greater benefit to the courts.
Joan Broad, a retired Barnstaple magistrate, agreed the move would be a positive one.
“I think it’s very good in this day and age”, she said.
However, the proposed plans have raised some concerns.
Mrs Broad feels the majority of senior citizens would not want it to be compulsory to serve as a juror if they are called upon.
“As long as they are allowed to say I don’t want to do it, it’s fine”, she said.
Under the new plans, all jurors regardless of age are expected to serve as normal and can only be excused with a valid reason such as ill health.
Despite the increase in numbers of potential jurors, there are growing concerns for the legal system in North Devon.
Mrs Broad said: “I don’t think we’ll even have a court to worry about if there are more court closures.
“Barnstaple is a growing town but the infrastructure isn't growing. We need more doctors, more schools, full time courts.”
Despite the concerns, Zara Svensson a solicitor from Slee Blackwell in Barnstaple, said: “North Devon is home to many retired people and I am sure that those aged between 70 and 75 in the community will welcome this new opportunity to undertake jury service.”