Friday, October 30, 2009

Mixed Gender Juries

From Heather Roy this piece ...

On October 26 1942 the Women Jurors Act came into effect. This meant for the first time, women aged 25-60 could be included on the jury list on the same basis as men if they so desired.

Driven by the demands of war on the country and the fact that so many men were serving overseas, this Act was one of a number of historic milestones achieved for New Zealand woman during the 1940s. It was only a year before - in October 1941 - that New Zealand's first female police officers completed their training.

Despite the passing of the Women Jurors Act, however, very few women actually added their names to the jury pool. This lasted until 1963, when the Act was amended so that the names of all adult women were added by default - however they still had absolute right of refusal.

Over subsequent years the jury responsibilities of men and women have been equalised. Today everyone enrolled on the Electoral Roll, aged 20-65, and residing within a specific distance from a court is required to attend if summoned. If they wish to be excused, they must prove that sitting on the jury would cause them hardship or serious inconvenience.

It's a far cry from the statement of New Zealand's first ever female juror, Miss ER Kingsman, who suggested that one day New Zealand might even have female judges - an idea considered completely outlandish at the time!

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