Employer in court over 'threats' to murder-trial juror

A Sydney vintage-clothing shop has failed to halt a criminal case over allegations it threatened an employee who said working weekends would be too taxing while she was also a juror in a murder trial.

The woman, who cannot be legally identified, served on a jury that heard evidence in a violent shooting murder case that ran in the NSW Supreme Court from February to April 2023.

During that time, she had been rostered on to work three out of every four weekends at the shop.

The firm faced a hearing at Sydney's Downing Centre Local Court on Thursday over accusations of threatening the woman after she refused to work Saturdays and Sundays on top of having to witness harrowing material as a juror.

“The trial was very stressful and confronting in some parts," the woman told Magistrate Scott Nash. 

"My job at that point was quite stressful as well and I felt I would not be able to do both at the same time in any way as it would be much too much for me."

Under questioning by prosecutor David Kell SC, she said she also received two letters from the judge overseeing the trial about why she should have the weekends off.

"At the beginning of jury duty, we were told to write a letter to the judge if we had any questions or issues arising with our employers so I wrote him a note,” the woman said.

Despite sending these letters on to her director and reiterating that she could not work as rostered, she was still reprimanded, the court was told.

During the trial in early March, the director sent her an email claiming she had failed to fulfil her ordinary hours.

"The company reserves the right to address these breaches when you return to work,” the woman's boss wrote.

When a verdict was handed down and the juror returned to work, she was handed a letter on April 17 informing her of an upcoming disciplinary hearing.

She was told she could be warned or have her employment terminated.

The woman decided to resign after that hearing, telling the court she felt she was being punished unfairly.

The firm has been charged with two counts of threatening an employee called for jury duty with either an alteration or "injury" in their employment.

It also faces a back-up charge of threatening the staff member with dismissal from their position.

Dr Kell said no court had considered the sections of the Jury Act that covered the charges, making the case novel from a legal standpoint.

The company has denied the allegations.

Its barrister, Geoff Diggins, argued the actions did not constitute threats and would not have been seen that way by an ordinary, reasonable person.

Statements made by the director "had no meat", he said, because they did not outline an actual intention to do a specific type of harm.

"You say because it's so open-ended and inconclusive, that it's not a threat?” Mr Nash asked.

"That's right,” Mr Diggins replied.

The barrister argued that there was "no case to answer" and that the charges should be dismissed immediately.

Mr Nash rejected these submissions, however, finding the evidence did at least on initial viewing support the criminal charges.

The matter will return for final submissions on August 21.

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