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Judge Heather Norton orders arrest of man who failed to turn up at Canterbury Crown Court for jury service

By Paul Hooper

A judge today took the unusual step of ordering the arrest of a Folkestone man who failed to show up for jury service.

Brian Atkins was called to carry out his civic duty at Canterbury Crown Court several weeks ago, along with dozens of other people from across the county.

But when he didn’t show up, he was asked to give a reason for his non-attendance.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

Then after a prolonged exchange of letters and phone calls, Canterbury’s senior Judge Heather Norton ordered him to appear at court to explain his actions.

But yesterday he didn’t arrive, and repeated that today by again staying away – despite senior court officials explaining the possible consequences.

Now Judge Norton has issued a warrant for Mr Atkins to be formally arrested by police and then bailed to appear in front of her.

Under the law, people who fail to appear can face fines up to £1,000 – unless there is a valid reason for their jury duty to be deferred, but that can happen only once.

Judge Heather Norton is presiding over the case
Judge Heather Norton is presiding over the case

And if Mr Atkins fails to show up again he could be held to be in contempt of court and judges have the powers to jail those found guilty.

More than 400,000 are randomly chosen for unpaid jury service in the UK each year which lasts a minimum of 10 working days.

Under the 1974 Juries Act people aged between 18 and 70 can be required to sit in judgement on trials in the crown court, High Court or county court.

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