I wasn't nobbled, says Guinness trial juror

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The Independent Online

The foreman of the jury that convicted the Guinness Four in 1990 yesterday denied that he was "nobbled" in the original fraud trial.

Peter Kearns, a former publican, told the Court of Appeal that at no point during the six-month trial of Ernest Saunders, Anthony Parnes, Gerald Ronson and Jack Lyons had he been approached by anyone offering him a bribe in return for a "not guilty" verdict.

However, Mr Kearns did admit that during a drinking session, possibly in a pub in Kilburn, north-west London, a friend had suggested that he could make money out of his juror status.

Mr Kearns, who had recently bought his first pub, said that he replied: "It wouldn't have been worth it for a million."

Asked whether he felt obliged to report the conversation to the trial judge, Mr Kearns replied: "I didn't have to. I took it as a joke. It was just a bit of banter." His testimony forms one of the main planks of the appeal. Counsel for the four men have argued that their convictions should be overturned because they were denied a fair trial. The court has already heard that senior police officers were told by a police informant, Michael Michael, that a juror was open to bribes but failed to notify the trial judge. The officers have denied knowledge of such allegations.

Mr Kearns also denied knowing one Paul Maguire. Mr Michael, who earlier this week gave evidence via video link, alleged that Mr Maguire told him that he had a publican relative on the Guinness jury who was open to "large amounts of money". Mr Kearns said: "[Mr Maguire] wasn't a relative, I've never heard of him." He also denied knowing Tommy Lucas, a retired builder, who was accused of attempting to obtain £30m from Mr Ronson to secure a "not guilty" verdict.

Despite intense questioning, counsel failed to establish any details of the conversation about the possibility of jury nobbling. Mr Kearns, whom the judge had to ask several times to stop mumbling and speak up, said: "It could've been any time in February or March. It could've been any one of maybe seven, eight or 10 people [who said it]."

However, Mr Kearns said he had never been approached by anyone in relation to his conduct as a juror, nor had he said anything to give the impression that he was open to offers of money. Victor Temple QC, for the Crown, said that Mr Kearns had proved "his and the entire jury's integrity".

The judges ­ Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Tomlinson and Sir Humphrey Potts ­ said they hoped to give their decision next Friday. If the conviction is quashed, they could order a retrial. Such a move could lead to compensation running into many millions of pounds. This latest appeal ­ the third ­ is against the four men's conviction over their roles in boosting the Guinness share price during the £2.6bn takeover of Distillers.