Age Concern Angus chairwoman Betty Cohen has welcomed key changes to Scots law which will see over-65s being able to serve on a jury.
Since 1980 an upper age limit for jury duty has been imposed in Scotland which has prohibited those over 65 from serving.
However, ministers believe that the system is outdated, ageist and fails to recognise the added life experience and perspective that Scots over 65 can offer.
The upper age limit for jury service has been abolished following unanimous approval by the Scottish Parliament and the move will boost the pool of potential jurors available to Scotland’s courts and ease the burden on younger members of the public who may have to juggle family and work commitments.
Mrs Cohen said, “I agree that it’s ageist to have an upper age limit for jurors. I believe people over the age of 65 have a lot to contribute to the jury service system and I welcome the changes to the law.
“After all, 80 is the new 60 and 60 is the new 40. People once considered old in their 60s, 70s and 80s are fitter than ever and have experience to pass on.”
Mrs Cohen said her only concern would be people suffering from dementia ending up on a jury because this could risk disruption to criminal trials.
However, under the new arrangements those aged 71 and over who do not want or feel able to serve on a jury will have a right of excusal which can be exercised right up until the day of the trial.’Inescapably ageist’David Manion is chief executive of Age Scotland, the new single charity representing Help The Aged and Age Concern Scotland.
He said, “We welcome this change and the Scottish Government’s recognition of the contribution Scotland’s older people can make to the jury service system.
“It is inescapably ageist to have an upper age limit for jurors. It implies that anyone above that age is incapable of fulfilling their civic duties, something that is categorically not true.”
He added, “Older people themselves are best placed to judge their abilities and allowing the over-70s the choice of whether to accept jury summons will allow those older people who are both able and willing to serve on a jury to do so.”
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said, “Scots continue to live active lives long after retirement and they make a valuable contribution to communities up and down the country.
“The idea that they should be debarred from taking part in jury duty was frankly ridiculous, insulting, and it is time for change.”
He added, “Scotland’s over-65s have a wealth of life experience and perspective which they can bring to the jury benches, strengthening the juries on which our criminal justice system depends.
“The composition of juries should be a true reflection of our society but the current age limit is clearly leaving people in later life under-represented.”