Nova Scotia

18 hookey-playing jurors chastised by judge

Eighteen no-show jurors appeared before the chief justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Friday morning to explain why they didn't show up for the jury pool this spring.

Skipping out on jury duty a 'distressing trend'

Eighteen no-show jurors appeared before the chief justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Friday morning to explain why they didn't show up for jury duty this spring.

Justice Joseph Kennedy instructed sheriff's deputies to track down the missing jurors and bring them to court to explain themselves.

Almost all were fined at least $300. Most received fines of $800, or the option of two weeks in a provincial jail.

The maximum fine is $1,000.

Business student James Newcomb was among those who were fined $800. He said as a co-op student with a low income, paying the fine would be a hardship. 

"It's going to kill my schooling," he said. 

"I'm going to have to take money from being able to pay for my courses to pay the government and I think that also giving me two weeks in jail is a huge cost to the city and our government for no reason." 

Newcomb said the courts should develop a more personalized reminder system, such as a phone call. 

Brad Close was also fined $800. He told the court he suffered a broken toe and sprained ligaments which put his right foot in a splint that week.

He said he was on pain medications which caused him to forget about jury duty until it was too late. 

Close said he has been on employment insurance for months. He recently found part-time employment but said he cannot afford the fine.

He asked the court if he could do community service instead but was told that was not an option. 

"I don't see where the justice is in that," he said. "I'm willing to do community service. I have no problem with that. Why does it have to be money?" 

Close said he'll consult a lawyer to see what his options are, but at this point he'd rather go to jail than pay the fine. 

"I don't think that's a very good way to motivate people to serve in community service, to serve on jury duty and to participate in the democratic process," he said. 

A distressing trend

Justice Joseph Kennedy said skipping out on jury duty is a "distressing trend" across Canada that is "sliding away from us."

"There's more to being Canadian than putting on a hockey sweater and getting into the beer on Canada Day," Kennedy told the group.

He stressed that despite Canadians being very vocal about their rights, they "are a little shaky when it comes to duties."

He said Friday’s hearing was about demonstrating the consequences of what can happen when jurors flout the process.

He said if the consequences don’t work "we will up the ante."

Kennedy first publicly scolded the prospective jurors when 95 people — or 40 per cent of prospective jurors — were not in court on May 21 for the start of a five-day trial.

With files from Shaina Luck

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