Campaign spotlight: Jury's out

Janey Antoniou, campaigner with the mental health charity Rethink

What's the problem?
People with mental health problems are excluded from jury service. The Juries Act 1974 states that you are excluded if you "regularly attend for treatment from a medical practitioner". This is so vague that it can be applied to people who are perfectly capable of serving on a jury, like me. It reflects society's views of people with a mental illness as unfit. Five and a half years ago the government promised a consultation on this. It still hasn't happened.

How does it affect you?
Twenty-two years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but I'm one of the thousands of people who successfully manage the condition. Yes, I see a psychiatrist as part of living with schizophrenia, but the point is that I do live with it: I work, I'm married, I vote, I pay taxes. I work as a research officer analysing medical reviews; I am capable of examining evidence and coming to rational conclusions. This law affects everyone with a mental health problem, adding to society's marginalisation of us.

Most people don't want to do jury service - and I don't relish the idea, but I do want to give something back to society. Instead, I get yet another message that my contribution isn't worthy.

What are you doing about it?
I have signed up to Rethink's Don't Count Me Out campaign, which is lobbying the government to make good on its promise to hold a consultation
on this discriminatory law.

How can we get involved?
Join the campaign at to take action. You can email the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, and contact your MP to ask them to raise the issue of jury service with their party leader.

This article first appeared in the 01 February 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Unforgiven