Jury age limit to be raised to 75
People up to the age of 75 will be able to sit on juries in England and Wales, according to new plans announced by the justice minister.
The proposal to raise the upper age limit of jurors from 70 to 75 is part of a drive to make the criminal justice system more inclusive and to reflect modern society, the Ministry of Justice said.
Criminal justice minister Damian Green said: "The right to be tried by your peers is, and remains, a cornerstone of the British Justice system laid down in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago.
"Our society is changing and it is vital that the criminal justice system moves with the times. The law as it currently stands does not take into account the increases to life expectancy that have taken place over the past 25 years. This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process."
Each year, around 178,000 people in England and Wales undertake jury service, but currently only those between 18 and 70 can sit as jurors.
The age range was last amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which raised the upper limit from 65 to 70, and the latest proposed changes to the age range would require a new law, to be brought forward early next year.
It would mean that those aged 70-75 who are summoned would be expected to serve on juries, although the original Juries Act 1974 still allows people to be excused if they can show a good reason why they should be.
The planned changes have been welcomed by organisations representing older people. Saga director Paul Green said: "Older people have a great deal of life experience and many remain astute, savvy and mentally agile well into later life and will be a valued addition to any jury. This is a common sense reform and should be applauded."
Jane Ashcroft, chief executive of older people's charity Anchor added: "I welcome this move by the Ministry of Justice to increase the upper age limit for jurors. Older people have already contributed a great deal to society and their experiences and views are invaluable, which is why at Anchor more than 300 of our workforce is aged over the traditional retirement age."
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK, said: "Judging someone on the basis of their date of birth alone risks overlooking a person's unique skills and knowledge. While it's true that increasing longevity brings its challenges, there is also extraordinary human capital within our older population - older people are working, volunteering and contributing a huge amount to communities and the wider marketplace. We welcome all ways of including older people into the different aspects of society, including eligibility to sit on a jury."