THE Western Australian jury system will have its biggest overhaul in more than 50 years after new laws that scupper people avoiding jury duty passed through State Parliament.
The legislation will allow potential jurors to defer service, rather than get out duty by using excuses such as work commitments and illness. Under the changes, the fine for people who shirk their civil duty will more than treble the current fine to $800.
The laws will still offer exemptions to lawyers and some categories of parliamentary officers.
The new laws will bring WA's jury system into the 21st Century, Attorney General Christian Porter said.
He said the changes to the "1950s-era" Juries Act would make serving on a jury a fairer and more flexible experience.
“I am pleased this legislation has been passed by State Parliament with few changes from our original proposals, as both Houses acknowledged the need for modernising jury service,” Porter said.
The changes to become law include allowing prospective jurors to defer jury service for a set period.
“This recognises that for a jury to be representative of the community, people with a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences will now be given a little flexibility in the system to accommodate their work and other significant commitments.
“There will also be the introduction of the flat $800 fine for people who do not turn up for jury duty when summonsed, and tougher action against employers who don’t allow an employee to carry out this civic duty when required to do so.
“Individual employers will face a fine up to $10,000 and companies $50,000.”
The categories of people who were previously automatically exempt from jury duty have been slashed and the age limit for jurors raised from 65 to 75 years.
The Department of the Attorney General will advertise the changes before the laws come into effect and information sent to potential jurors will also reflect the new requirements.
Shadow Attorney-General John Quigley said the Opposition supported the general thrust of the changes, which were in line with the WA Law Reform Commission recommendations and would broaden the jury pool.