Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Jury Service

Here is an amusing story that I was sent by e-mail last week:

My main reason for writing was to share with you this account of the exploits of a trainee criminal solicitor who was doing jury service with us this week (he'd already explained to court staff he was a trainee solicitor with a particular interest in crime). He was on a fraud trial in which the first jury had had to be discharged because one of the prosecution witnesses blurted out something very prejudicial about the defendant while giving evidence. The judge started the day, in the absence of the jury, by reading a letter he'd just received from this chap; the juror feared that much of the evidence was going over the heads of some of the other jurors and, to remedy this, he'd downloaded and made copies of various sections of two Theft Acts plus some Court of Appeal rulings that he thought would help the jury. He thought, though, that he should ask his honour's permission before distributing them to his colleagues.

'Ah,' said the defence barrister; 'may I ask your honour if this is the gentleman who has been sitting at the extreme left of the back row? [It was]. It's just that, yesterday evening, the defendant's relatives, who've been in court throughout, told me that that particular juror had had with him a book on criminal law throughout the trial and that, during lunch yesterday, they'd seen him sitting outside the pub round the corner apparently discussing what they assume to be the same book, which was open on the table, with four other jurors'.

The judge was very nice about it when he dismissed the jury, explaining that he was sure everyone had been acting from the best intentions but, unfortunately, he had little choice but to stop the trial.

As one of the barristers commented afterwards, clearly they hadn't yet reached the module on criminal procedure in this guy's course!


Gavin Whenman said...

I think I'm missing something here... was the problem that he was discussing the case with 4 other jurors and not all of them or something else?

Gavin said...

The pint was the trainee solicitor was there to listen to the facts and be guided by the Judge on issues of, or points of, law. By taking his own view of the legal issues and discussing law with the other jury members the trainee solicitor could have influenced their view of the law and taken a different view of the law offered by the Judge.

Bystander said...

Even judges who serve on juries are sternly warned not to get involved in matters of law, but to accept he imterpretation of the presiding Judge. If he gets i wrong, the right thing to do is appeal.

Anonymous said...

so the trick there is, if you don't want to be doing jury service, bring your copy of Clarkson and Keating along and get sent home. I knew that book would come in handy... T.