Incorrect procedure in contempt hearing

LAW REPORT v 16 May 1997

Regina v Schot; Regina v Barclay; Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) (Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Forbes and Mr Justice Keene) 12 May 1997

A judge who found two members of a jury to have been in contempt of court did not follow the correct procedure.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeals of Bonnie Schot and Carol Barclay against findings by Judge Cooray at Knightsbridge Crown Court on 24 March 1997 that they were in contempt of court.

The appellants were members of a jury hearing a trial which had started on 18 February 1997 at Knightsbridge Crown Court. Miss Schot was the foreman of the jury.

On 12 March 1997, after retiring to consider its verdict, the jury sent the judge a note which said: "Your Honour, we are unable to come to any decisions owing to some jurors' conscious beliefs. Please advise."

The foreman was asked to explain in writing what "conscious beliefs" meant. A second note read: "Some members of the jury cannot bring themselves to make a true judgment due to our beliefs, not religious but personal. At the beginning of the trial before we took the oath we felt that we could not stand up in court and stress this fact. We thought that our feelings may change over time. After retiring we have found that we still feel the same and cannot give a true verdict to these defendants."

The judge requested the names of the jurors involved, and was given those of the appellants. He discharged the jury and ordered the appellants to return to court on 24 March to show cause why they should not be punished for contempt of court.

John Perry QC (who did not appeal below) and Leroy Redhead (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for Miss Schot; Stephen Solley QC (who did not appear below) and Navjot Sidhu (Registrar of Criminal Appeals) for Miss Barclay; David Pannick QC (Treasury Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

Lord Justice Rose said that the court sympathised with the judge in having to deal with a very unusual situation, but he had fallen into a sequence of errors.

It was very doubtful whether it had been proper for him to seek clarification of the phrase "conscious beliefs", and he ought not, on receipt of the second note, to have discharged the jury.

He should have sought the number of jurors who were having difficulties rather than their names. He could then have decided whether to discharge the whole jury or to give them a majority direction. Alternatively, having ascertained that only two jurors were involved, he could have discharged them under s 16(1) of the Juries Act 1974.

In any event the enquiry into the names of the jurors was in breach of the widely expressed terms of s 8(1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which applied to the court as well as to everyone else, and of the long established principle that no one has the right to enquire into what has occurred in the jury room.

Although the Juries Act 1974 did not provide for exemption from jury service on the ground of personal conscientious beliefs, section 9(4) gave a wide discretionary power of excusal. In the light of the Practice Direction (Jury Service: Excusal) [1988] 1 WLR 1162, the question to be asked in considering an application for excusal was whether the beliefs of the juror prevented him or her from fulfilling properly, responsibly and honestly his or her duties as a member of the jury.

Consideration should be given to amending the jury summons or other information given to jurors so as to incorporate some reference to the possibility referred to in the Practice Direction.

Contumacious refusal to judge another person might in appropriate circumstances establish the actus reus of contempt but it was also necessary to prove the mens rea, namely an intention to impede or create a real risk of prejudicing the administration of justice.

There had been no "urgent and imperative need" for the judge to deal with the question of contempt himself, and there had been a real danger of bias on his part. He should either have referred the matter to another senior Crown Court judge, or to the Attorney General.

In his conclusions the judge had drawn no distinction between the two appellants, although their cases were very different. The findings of contempt against both appellants would be quashed. The court also indicated that the imprisonment of the appellants had not been appropriate.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea