Jury in Maxwell sons' case frustrated by further delay

Long jury trials and deliberations
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A chest infection delayed the Maxwell trial for the second day yesterday, as one of the 12 jurors was too ill to continue deliberations. The jury was sent out to consider its verdict last Monday week. It has now spent 10 days in a London hotel, separated from family and friends, with just last Sunday off.

Five other jurors have also been examined by a doctor this week for chest complaints, brought on by "unhealthy conditions" in which they have to pass each day. The judge has ordered that humidifiers be put in the jury room and has advised them to take frequent walks,

Kevin and Ian Maxwell and the former Maxwell company director, Larry Trachtenberg, are accused of conspiring to defraud pensioners. All three defendants have had to appear in the court each day to hear whether the jury has yet made up its mind.

The juror, who fell ill on Tuesday and stayed in bed while taking antibiotics, was absent from the Old Bailey courtroom again yesterday as the other 11 members were brought in.

The trial faces a potential problem if the juror remains ill. The judge, Lord Justice Phillips, said the woman might be better today but this was not certain. He asked them to consider the consequences of more delays. "What I would like you to do when you get back to the hotel in her company is to consider among yourselves what consequences any further delay would have to your personal lives."

Although the judge had the power to dismiss the juror from the case, he said he was reluctant to do so because she had already participated in more than 47 hours of deliberations and 121 days of evidence and summing up. "I am going to postpone my decision until tomorrow when we will see whether or not she is able to resume her duties."

Judges have evolved guidelines on how long to let a jury discuss a verdict.

Professor Mike McConville, director of the Legal Research Institute at Warwick University, said a judge had to take several factors into account. "He will be justified in allowing more time when there has been a complex case. He will also take into account the amount of public money invested in the trial.

"But there comes a point where if the jury is giving indications that it is impossible to reach agreement on charges, then it is difficult for a judge to tell them to spend more time deliberating without giving the impression that he favours a particular verdict.

"There is also a limit to the endurance of a jury, beyond which they cannot make a decision in a calm and settled atmosphere. They must be close to that now."

1981: 40-day Brixton riot trial took nine days to reach guilty verdicts but failed to agree on serious charges including one of murder.

1988: Computer fraud trial of Palcyth Pottinger and Adegboy Adelajao lasting six months. Jury failed to reach a verdict after nine days. Case dropped.

1990: Guinness fraud trial: after 72 days the jury took six days to find four defendants guilty.

1992: Brink's Mat bullion raid. Seven-month trial. Four men convicted by jury after seven days' deliberation.

1992: Blue Arrow fraud trial: lasted one year and four days. Jury took seven days to reach guilty verdicts on four defendants.

1992: Barlow Clowes: Unanimous verdicts on 18 counts against Peter Clowes and Peter Naylor took four days after seven-month trial.