Participation in the jury system was limited to certain sections of society, she said, and excluded civil servants.
“My role is to recognise and appreciate the service that jurors give,” Denning said.
“They are unpaid. We provide lots of tea, biscuits, and lunch every day.”
A total of 14,164 lunches were served in the Dublin 7 CCJ building last year.
Segregated circulation routes
Jury experience is now considered in courthouse design, with segregated circulation routes, disability access, and more comfortable spaces in which to deliberate.
The Courts Service ten-year strategy is about making things easier, faster, cheaper, and improving access to justice, the chief executive said.
The jury-service function has now been centralised in an office in Castlebar, Co Mayo, which sends out 120,000 jury-service summonses each year, and deals with all queries.
Never been to post office
“One of our younger staff members in that office enquired why one had to post back the jury summons, because he had never actually been in a post office.
“As a consequence of this, we are now working on providing an electronic interface for jurors,” Angela Denning said.
Since every jury summons now has a barcode, the need for morning jury roll calls could also be eliminated, since those attending can ‘zap-in’ electronically.
Denning said that the general scheme of an electoral commission bill was a key milestone.
“We choose our jurors at random from the roll of electors, and that is not updated regularly. I’m very conscious of the upset and distress caused to family members when a jury summons arrives for a recently-deceased family member.”
The present system of requiring upwards of 100 jurors to attend in person for potential selection was unnecessary and time-consuming, the chief executive said.
“Modern technology should enable citizens to be selected at random using electronic means. Challenges could be dealt with without having to summon people to a courtroom. We can do everything else over screens, by Skype and so on.”
The chief executive also said that jurors were increasingly requesting to look back at digital and video evidence in the jury room, and screens were now being installed to facilitate this.
Virtual reality goggles
“Our staff have asked for virtual reality goggles to train court registrars -- it’s terrifying if it’s your first time going into a courtroom,” she said.
Jurors, once selected, could also use goggles to see what’s ahead of them in the courtroom, she added.
In Australia, potential jurors are contacted 12 months in advance, and given a calendar to check off those dates that don’t suit.
“That has improved attendance rates, and it’s certainly something I’d like to look at here,” she said.
“We live in a changing world and our jurors live in that world with us.
"We need to reflect that in how we deal with these ordinary citizens who give up their time for a greater social good,” Denning said.