A few years back I was called for jury duty.
My first thought was “How can I get out of this?”
Then I saw it was jury duty at The Old Bailey.
The Old Bailey.
That was part of history.
I’d be walking through the same doors as The Krays.
Where Ronnie Kray had been found guilty of shooting George Cornell.
Where Reggie Kray had been found guilty of murdering Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie.
Where, in 1916, Sir Roger Casement was tried for supplying guns to the IRA via a German submarine.
He was the last person to be imprisoned in The Tower of London, he was found guilty of treason and executed.
Where Penguin Books were tried for obscenity, after publishing “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D H Lawrence.
And the chief prosecutor said to the jury “The question you have to ask yourselves is, is this the kind of book you would wish your wife or servants to read?”
Where the prostitute Christine Keeler was involved in the trial that would eventually bring down the entire government.
I couldn’t turn down the chance of jury duty here.
It would be almost like being part of history.
Well that’s what I thought.
Of course, the reality was different.
The case I got wasn’t treason, or murder, or pornography, or prostitution, or anything interesting.
It was a fraud.
It was so dull I can’t even remember the full details.
Something about some brothers who started a lorry firm.
Then built it into a huge company and defrauded someone.
Maybe the Inland Revenue.
Like most creatives, anything to do with numbers puts me to sleep.
But I struggled to concentrate.
I decided to treat it like getting briefed on an ad campaign.
So I got a foolscap pad and made tons of notes.
For two weeks I wrote down every detail of the case.
Times, dates, motives, things that didn’t add up, inconsistencies in testimony.
Eventually I was clear about what I’d say in the jury room.
The person being tried was charged with 11 counts of fraud.
I could prove that he was guilty of 7 charges and innocent of 4.
But just before we retired to consider our verdict the judge stopped the case.
He conferred with both councils.
Then he addressed the jury.
He said “The defendant has decided to plead guilty to 4 counts of fraud and we have decided to drop the other 7.”
And we were dismissed without even discussing it.
I was gobsmacked.
The 4 charges he’d pleaded guilty to were the ones I had him down as innocent of.
And the 7 charges they’d dropped were the ones I had him down as guilty of.
So where does that leave us?
Either it proves the jury system is fallible.
Or it proves I’m not the ideal person to sit on juries.
I thought of that recently when we were judging the D&AD Black Pencil awards.
We spent a day discussing all the ads.
I find awards juries hard, because, usually, what I think is different to everyone else.
I’ve had to learn to lighten up about this.
Every time I feel myself getting wound up I remember being on a Campaign Press Awards jury years ago.
Tony Brignul and I were discussing the BMW press campaign.
Six double-page spreads.
I said “I don’t know if you can give the whole campaign an award. Three of these ads are great but three aren’t.”
Tony said “I know what you mean. Three are wonderful but three are anything but wonderful.”
I said “Yes, three are really powerful, but three are just deadly dull.”
Tony said “Yes, three are well thought out and crafted, while three are just trivial and flashy.”
It went on like that for ten minutes.
Eventually we realised we were each talking the three opposite ads.
The three I loved he hated.
The three he loved I hated.
So I think the main thing to remember about awards is that they’re not a fact.
They’re only other people’s opinions.
One year, Jeremy Sinclair strongly disagreed with pretty much everything that won a D&AD award.
He wrote in the annual “The verdict is in, and I find the jury guilty.”