Finally, my numbers have come in. Not, sadly, in the Lotto draw, although I was starting to think the odds were about the same. Nope, for the first time, I have been called for jury service.

For years, I've listened to talkback callers bemoan the fact they've received a call-up from the court, and for years I've wished it was me.

Not because I have silly romantic ideas about what serving on a jury will be like. I know real life bears no relation to the American court dramas on our screens. I know that, if I am selected, much of the trial will be tiresome and tedious as points of law are thrashed out between the lawyers. I was a court reporter early on in my career and I understand how trials operate. But I also believe in our justice system and I want to be a part of it.

That may sound counterintuitive given that many hours on talkback are spent excoriating the decisions of namby-pamby judges and their wet-bus-ticket sentences.


The criticism has come from callers and, on occasion, me. I have felt incredibly frustrated at some of the baffling sentences handed down from the bench. But that's not the fault of the jury.

The jury simply has to find a defendant guilty or not guilty and I believe they do a pretty good job of that.

I've heard horror stories — I'm sure you have, too — of people who have served on juries where people have absolutely no interest in being there.

They have their minds made up from the start, or they're only interested in when the next smoko break is scheduled. Or are so dim, that if their IQ was just a couple of clicks lower, as a British newspaper infamously said of Diana, Princess of Wales, they'd have to be watered daily.

But I've also heard from others who served on juries who came away full of respect for their fellow citizens.

They came from all walks of life and with a wealth of life experience between them. They did the best job they could, they believe they came up with the right result and they'd serve on a jury again in a heartbeat.

So I'm all ready to front up on my appointed day and experience the court system from the right side of the dock. But it hasn't been without significant inconvenience.

I'm lucky I work for a large, socially responsible corporate, so I can take the time off.


Others who are owner-operators, or who are employed by SMEs, simply wouldn't be able to disappear for the week. And possibly longer.

In the letter that came from the Ministry of Justice, I was told one of the trials scheduled is expected to last for up to six weeks. Six weeks!

Who on Earth could opt out of their life for six weeks? I certainly won't be able to and I don't have young children or a business to operate or an employer who can't afford to lose me for such a length of time.

I'm also a little concerned I might be chosen as a juror for a trial involving financial misfeasance. Human emotions, I understand. Slippery accountancy practices, not so much.

And you can't put up your hand and ask the court to "please explain". Which would mean the defendant would not be getting a fair deal.

Perhaps it's time to look at paying professional jurors. Or go back to the future and revisit the recommendations made by the Law Commission way back in 2012.

They proposed ditching trials by a full jury of 12, drawn from the imperfect ranks of the community, in favour of a judge and two semi-professional jurors, trained in criminal procedure. This seems an obvious solution.

Trial by jury dates back to the earliest days of colonisation, and back in the 1840s our forebears had the good sense to adapt an antiquated legal system to suit the practicalities of colonial life. It's time we did the same thing and adapted our venerable legal system to the realities of modern-day life.

But not before I get my chance to serve.

• Check out Kerre McIvor's new Sunday Sessions show, 9am-midday, NewstalkZB today