Judge adjourns to new year to ease pressure on jurors speak

The Maxwell Trial; Day 116
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The Independent Online
The Maxwell trial came to an unexpected halt yesterday when jurors told the judge they would feel under pressure if they were sent out to consider their verdicts before Christmas.

So, instead of summing up and sending the jury out next week, as he had intended, Lord Justice Phillips adjourned the trial, now in its seventh month, until the new year.

He told the seven women and five men that he did not want them to feel under any pressure and he said their request had shown "some wisdom".

He told them: "All that remains is to wish you a very happy Christmas," and they left court for the extended break.

On Tuesday the judge had told the jury he planned to begin summing up next Monday and hoped to finish at the end of the week, when the jury would then be sent to consider their verdicts, spending the night at a hotel. If the jurors had not agreed verdicts by 22 December, the judge said, they would be allowed home to celebrate Christmas and would return to resume their deliberations on 27 December.

But yesterday the jury sent the judge a note saying they were "feeling concerned that after a long and complex trial they are under pressure regarding their deliberation process".

The note said the jury felt various pressures - the time of year, the ill health of family members and a concern that a break in deliberations "may not be conducive to our decision".

It added: "It would be preferable to commence this entire process after Christmas and we would appreciate this consideration."

They sent a further message to the judge: "We feel that we are essentially in a position of having a time-scale due to the holiday season rather than the opportunity for an open-ended process."

The judge assured the jury that "at this stage of the trial, and indeed throughout, you are the most important people. I am not going to send you out to consider verdicts if you are going to feel under pressure".

The jury sent the judge another note saying they did not want any break from when he began his summing up until they had reached verdicts.

The judge adjourned the court until 3 January, when he would begin summing up.

Kevin Maxwell, his brother Ian, and the former Maxwell executive Larry Trachtenberg deny conspiracy to defraud by misusing shares belonging to the pension fund.