Did you know that if you have any “disorders or disability of the mind” which requires you to “regularly visit a medical practitioner for treatment” that you may not be eligible for serving on a jury? I read an article in The Times Magazine yesterday entitled “I want to do my jury duty, but…” in which Robert Crampton described how being honest about taking 20mg of prozac and thus seeing his GP regularly for prescriptions meant that he found himself no longer eligible to do his civic duty.
Of course there are people with mental health issues who may not be suitable to serve on a jury but in my mind there are thousands more who would be. Crampton says himself that “I didn’t actually believe that owning up to being a low-level, minimum-security, no-danger-to-others nutter would be sufficient to disqualify me from jury service.” How wrong he was. A short response telling him he no longer qualified and thus was no longer selected i.e. was no longer normal enough to be a responsible member of the public and that was it, his dream of being on a jury was dead in the water.
I appreciate that there has to be a limit and a way of working out the people that may legitimately not be capable of handling the responsibility but where do they draw the line? Do they ensure that the judge, the barristers, the stenographer and person who draws the pictures don’t have cheeky prescriptions for prozac, lithium or valium stashed away somewhere?
As someone who takes several medications associated with mental health I refuse to believe that I would not be able to be a useful and responsible member of a jury were I called upon. I am a functioning human being who holds down a job, has friends, responsibilities and manages them without too much trouble. Just because I pop a couple of pills in the morning and again in the evening to minimise a health issue that I have no choice to have in my life shouldn’t mean that I am excluded. The directgov website about jury service lists the other reasons one may be ineligible which are if you have:
- ever had a prison or youth custody sentence of more than five years.
- have been in prison or youth custody for any length of time in the last ten years.
- have or have had a mental health condition or mental disability.
So Joe Schmo could have spent five years in prison for manslaughter in his past and be allowed to be involved and yet Fanny Adams, never been in trouble with the police who holds down a responsible job but who has once had mental health issues (a long time ago but she’s over it now) would be barred. It seems outmoded that such a huge section of the population* can be dismissed because of the legal pills they put in their mouth, I’d much rather those people who use recreational drugs be so readily tossed aside. If a letter ever lands calling me up for jury service then I will have to think long and hard about ‘confessing’ to the little white legal pills in my purse.
* Figures published by the NHS revealed that 23 million prescriptions for antidepressants were produced in 2010. source: Money woes ‘linked to rise in depression’, BBC April 2011