i Editor's Letter: It's only human nature


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The Independent Online


Do you sympathise with psychology lecturer Theodora Dallas, the juror who ruined a GBH trial at Luton Crown Court by going home at night and researching the defendant? Ms Dallas found that Barry Medlock had previously been accused of rape. She shared this information with her fellow jurors. This, the aptly named Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge said, had left them "extremely disturbed".

She got six months for contempt! But ... the trial judge could not have been clearer: you jurors must not research the case. I bet she wasn't the only one who did. It is human nature; curiosity has got the better of many jurors. The psychology lecturer's big mistake was to share her findings as if she was at work, not in the jury room.

It brought back memories for those at i lucky enough to have done jury service. I choose my words carefully. I think jury service, as we know it, is a right that was hard earned. Yes, it is a chore, it leaves juror and employer out of pocket and, yes, it can be dull.

I will never forget my two weeks at Croydon Crown Court 20+ years ago: bleak jury rooms; jurors who could not wait for it all to be over, who did not want to talk; the responsibility that weighed on all of us during the ABH trial; the battle to persuade other jurors not to find the accused guilty just because they looked like oiks and the shopkeeper was a decent man. Yes, some were lemming-like in our first sessions, but each of us grew as the week unfurled. By the end, all were engaged and aware of the importance of our decision.

There was no internet then. If there had been, I am not sure I could have resisted. No matter, Ms Dallas knew very well she should not have done what she did. The rules are there for a reason we can all understand. This sentence will be a real deterrent.

(By the way, Medlock was later re-tried, convicted and jailed).