One in four people getting out of jury service

Around one in four people summonsed for jury service manage to avoid it, according to figures released to Newshub under the Official Information Act.

A total of 393,429 people were called upon in 2018 and just under 100,000 were formally excused. Numbers for the previous two years are similar.

The top reason for being let off in 2018 was 'Being aged 65 or over', with 48,009 people falling into this category. Seniors can apply to be permanently excused.

Occupation/Business was the second most popular reason - with 19,593 excused, followed by for health reasons.

Massey University law Professor Chris Gallivan says it confirms what is anecdotally known.

"If you're a busy person and you're employed and you've got a stressful job and a lot on our plate - which all New Zealanders do - you turn to a pen and paper and email and you try to get out of jury service."

In its response, the Ministry of Justice said the law recognises that people may have personal circumstances that make it difficult for them to attend when summonsed and provides the ability to be excused in certain circumstances.

For this reason, the Ministry summonses more people than needed, and as a result, almost always has a suitable juror pool to draw upon.

From time to time, a deceased person may be included - if the electoral roll has not been updated. In 2018, 441 people were excused for being deceased.

Prof Gallivan thinks there is room for improvement in the selection process.

"Surely there is a better way in which we can administer the jury system, that doesn't result in wasted taxpayer money and a lot of churn in processing applications that actually don't result in somebody being made available."

He also believes the exemption age may have to be raised - as the population ages.

Fines of up to $1000 can be issued to anyone who fails to show up to jury service.