Two jurors found guilty of contempt of court were sentenced to suspended prison terms after a hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice today.
Deborah Dean, a juror in a trial in September and October 2014 involving 5 defendants facing various charges of rape, sexual exploitation for trafficking and sexual activity with a child, was sentenced to 3 months in prison, suspended for 12 months, after she wrote letters to two of the defendants after the trial concluded and disclosed accounts of jury deliberations.
Dean sent two letters to Usman Ali (convicted of sexual activity with a child) and a letter to Shakeal Rehman (convicted of trafficking and rape). The letters came to light in the course of appeals against conviction and sentence being pursued by Mr Ali and Mr Rehman.
James Smith was sentenced to 9 months, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay a fine of £900 for disclosing the results of internet research to other members of the jury in a drugs case at Liverpool Crown Court in December 2014.
Smith deliberately researched information including press articles about one of the defendants in the case on his mobile telephone. He then discussed the results with other members of the jury, directly ignoring the repeated direction of the judge not to conduct internet research. This led to the trial having to be abandoned, which resulted in the waste of approximately £80,000 of costs to the Court Service and Crown Prosecution Service.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP instigated both contempt proceedings last year and conducted the proceedings personally today. Speaking after the hearings he said:
“These are both serious examples of juror misconduct where the repeated directions of the judge were blatantly ignored. One of the cases cost the taxpayer huge amounts of money when the trial had to be abandoned. This wastage of costs was completely avoidable.
“Contempt of court of this nature involves serious wrongdoing and I instigated these proceedings as it was clearly in the wider public interest to do so. Any action which interferes with the administration of justice is a serious breach and I hope today’s judgment sends a lesson to other jurors about their responsibilities.”