The government has announced the upper age limit for jurors in England and Wales is to be raised from 70 to 75. Currently only people aged 18 to 70 are eligible to sit as jurors.
The change will require a new law which will be brought forward early next year. The move is part of Ministry of Justice plans to make the system more inclusive and to reflect modern society.
Around 178,000 people in England and Wales take part in jury service each year, but the government believes the current age limit does not take account of increases in life expectancy over the past 25 years. The age range was last amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, when it was raised from 65 to 70.
Groups representing the elderly have welcomed the move. Saga director of communications Paul Green: 'Older people have a great deal of life experience and will be a valued addition to any jury. This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process. This is a common sense reform and should be applauded. Older people have a great deal of life experience and many remain astute, savvy and mentally agile well into later life and will be a valued addition to any jury.
ane Ashcroft, chief executive of older people's charity Anchor added: "I welcome this move by the Ministry of Justice to increase the upper age limit for jurors. Older people have already contributed a great deal to society and their experiences and views are invaluable, which is why at Anchor more than 300 of our workforce is aged over the traditional retirement age. I'm pleased that more older people will now be able to share their wisdom and participate in the criminal justice system."
Older people could be excused for reasons such as a medical condition which prevents them serving, or significant caring responsibilities.
However, concerns regarding these proposals have been raised. The Council of Circuit Judges who represent more than 600 judges have said “estimates indicating that up to 50% of over-70s would feel they were not up to the role of a juror was "significant and cannot be ignored".
The judges said the plan may reduce loss of earnings payments, but feel proceedings might be hampered by poor hearing, poor vision or physical disability” "There would, inevitably, be an increase in 'days lost' as a result of illness or incapacity," it said. Leading to "substantial disruption" to criminal trials.