FROM next year the age limit for people doing jury service will rise from 70 to 75.
The change is being introduced by the Government in an attempt to make the system more inclusive and better reflect modern society.
Ministers believe that many people over the age of 70 are fully able to carry out the duties of a juror, and that their extra life experience could be invaluable to the justice process.
That is something which 69-year-old Jackie Hathaway supports completely.
The former chairman of the Burton 50 Plus Forum, which disbanded last year, told the Mail she would relish the opportunity for people of her age to continue having the chance to serve in this way.
She added: “Retirees now are so much younger than they used to be.
“When my mother was looking at 70, she was old, but my generation – the fortunate generation as we are called – are younger, fitter and more active. We’re not past it and I think it’s an excellent idea.
“People of my age have such a lot to give and offer, and such a range of experience. It’s really a pity they cut it off before.”
Currently, anybody between the ages of 18 and 70 can be called for jury service.
The upper age limit has not increased since 1988, and ministers have said they thought changes were necessary to reflect an increase in life expectancy during that time.
Under UK law, anyone who is called to sit on a jury must serve unless they can provide a good reason why they are not able. This change will see a minor adjustment, stating that those ages between 70 and 75 will be excused if they are shown to have a medical condition or if they have significant caring responsibilities.
Marie Nash, 89, who recently retired as chairman of the Branston Welcome Club, which caters for people over 60, said she thought it would be important to let people be excused if they felt they were unable to serve.
She told the Mail: “It completely depends on the person. Some people at 70 are not so good, and others are very active. It’s so hard to judge.
“I think it could be a worry for some older people, and I think it should be an optional thing. People should not be made to do it if they don’t feel they’re up to it.
“I think it’s a good idea to raise the age, but it should not be forced on anybody – no matter what their age.”
Mrs Nash stepped down from the chairman’s post at the club after founding it more than 50 years ago.
She is a former member of East Staffordshire Borough Council and remains active in many community groups.
However, not everybody is able to keep up this pace of life as they age, according to Gill Farrington, who is the chairman of South Derbyshire 50 Plus Forum.
She said she was completely against the increase – and she thought a lot of older people would share that opinion.
“I think if you belong to the ‘Age UK brigade’, you’re led to believe in equal rights for all, and say you should be able to do what everyone else does, but if you speak to older people you would probably find it’s quite a relief to think they would not be called for jury service once they reach 70,” she told the Mail.
The practical implications of including older people in the jury pool were the main reason she opposed the change, she said.
“You can imagine the complications of getting from here to Derby or wherever to serve on a jury. Are they going to provide transport? What about disabled people – will they have to find their own way?
“If people in older people’s homes would be eligible as well, will they send wheelchair transport?
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, and I don’t think the argument of experience is a good one. Not everyone is capable,” she added.
One concern which was raised with the plans, which are to be put into legislation next year, was that some older people could have more traditional views on some offenders and their criminals than their younger peers on the jury.
But Jackie Hathaway said she did not think it would be a real problem, adding: “I think we have all got our ideas about things, regardless of age, and I would hope the case would be presented in such a way that would not be a problem.
“It’s only five years. If I was called this year or in five years I don’t think I am going to change my opinion on things. I can’t see it as a problem for the sake of five years.”
The change will be put into legislation next year and will apply only in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland the age limit remains at 70, but those called up between the ages of 65 and 70 can choose not to serve.
A public consultation is currently under way to abolish the age limit.
This move comes three years after judges warned that increasing the age limit for jury members could ‘substantially disrupt’ criminal trials, as older people could suffer from poor hearing and vision and may become ill.