Section 1 Juries Act 1974, as amended, disqualifies certain categories of people from jury service, including some people with mental disorders. On 8/11/10 the government minister stated that only about 2% of people summoned for jury service are disqualified on grounds of mental health so to amend the Act would be a 'disproportionate response in view of the limited benefits and the small number of people likely to be affected'. However, the Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013, when the relevant section comes into force, will amend the categories of those disqualified.
Schedule 1: Part 1: Mentally disordered persons
1. A person who suffers or has suffered from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 and on account of that condition either—
- (a) is resident in a hospital or similar institution; or
- (b) regularly attends for treatment by a medical practitioner.
2. A person for the time being under guardianship under section 7 of the Mental Health Act 1983 or subject to a community treatment order under section 17A of that Act.
3. A person who lacks capacity, within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to serve as a juror.
The Mental Health (Discrimination) Act 2013 will change this to:
- A person for the time being liable to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.
- A person for the time being resident in a hospital on account of mental disorder as defined by the Mental Health Act 1983.
In January 2010 the charity Rethink launched a campaign against the disqualification in paragraph 1(b) above. Their solution is for a new exclusion based on the Mental Capacity Act 2005; in fact this is the existing paragraph 3:
- The Mental Capacity Act 2005 established the first definition in British law of capacity. This could be used as a basis for a new exclusion, which would ensure that people who would not be able to perform jury service adequately would be excluded. However, it would ensure that people with mental illness who can perform jury service are able to undertake this important civic duty. We want to ensure that the unjust element of blanket discrimination is removed, and replaced with a more equitable provision.
- This could be achieved through the individual being summoned declaring him or herself if he or she would be able to perform jury service adequately. We are not aware of problems in other jurisdictions of people who lack capacity sitting on juries. The individual’s declaration could be supplemented with evidence from a paid or unpaid carer or health or social care professional. It would be best for the individual to choose the person or people who they feel know their condition best to provide this evidence. Rethink has consulted professional bodies within the legal profession who have given their support to this solution.
Juries: Mental Illness
Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what impact assessment his Department has undertaken in respect of those diagnosed with mental health conditions who are disqualified from jury service under the Juries Act 1974; and what impact assessment his Department has undertaken in respect of (a) the Equality Act 2010, (b) the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and (c) the Mental Capacity Act 2005. 
Mr Blunt: We have no plans at present to change the provisions in the Juries Act 1974 relating to the eligibility for jury service of people with mental health conditions and therefore are not undertaking any formal impact assessments in that connection. Initial analysis has indicated that only about 2% of people summoned for jury service are disqualified on grounds of mental health. Modifying the provisions governing people's eligibility to serve would be a disproportionate response in view of the limited benefits and the small number of people likely to be affected.
Rethink website: "Don'tCountMeOut!" Rethink Fights Jury Exclusion
Rethink briefing document, January 2010
Hansard HC col 63W 8/11/10