The upper age limit of jurors will rise to 75 from next month reflecting longer life expectancies, the Ministry of Justice announced today.
Justice minister Sir Oliver Heald QC said it was important that juries reflect society.
‘People are living longer, healthier lives, so it is right that our courts are able to benefit from the wisdom and experience that older people can offer,’ he added. The previous cut-off age was 70; the youngest age at which people can serve remains 18.
Liverpool criminal defence solicitor Zoe Gascoyne, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association, said there was no reason not to raise the age limit in a society where people are living longer and are generally fitter mentally and physically.
Gascoyne also noted that, from the government’s point of view, older jurors are cheaper because there is no wage to cover.
She added: ‘Interestingly though, the retirement age for magistrates and judges is 70. If jurors over 70 are fit enough to serve on a jury, there is no reason at all why magistrates and judges should not be allowed to continue until 75 should they wish to do so.’
The ministry emphasised that, as with everyone selected for jury service, those over 70 can apply to be excused if they feel incapable of carrying out their duties.
Sarah Rochira, older people’s commissioner for Wales, said the increase will help to ‘challenge negative assumptions about older people’.
Jane Ashcroft CBE, chief executive of older people’s charity Anchor, said: ‘Older people already contribute a great deal to society and represent an integral part of any local community.
‘At Anchor we believe the knowledge and experience of older people is invaluable and I’m pleased that more will now be able to share their wisdom by contributing to the criminal justice system.’