Law report: Direction sufficient to deal with jury bias

LAW REPORT: 5 March 1997

Gregory v United Kingdom; European Court of Human Rights; 25 February 1997

The decision of a judge, faced with an allegation of racial bias in a jury trying a black defendant, to give the jury a forceful redirection instructing them to put all thoughts of prejudice out of their minds and to consider the case on the evidence alone, was sufficient to ensure the jury's impartiality and to dispel any doubts as to the fairness of the defendant's trial.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled by a majority of eight to one that there had been no infringement of the right to "a fair . . . hearing . . . by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law" under article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of David Gregory.

The applicant, who was black, was tried for robbery before a jury at Manchester Crown Court in November 1991. The jury retired at 10.46am on 28 November to consider their verdict but returned at 12.28 and handed to the trial judge a note stating: "Jury showing racial overtones. One member to be excused."

In the jury's absence, the judge consulted counsel for the prosecution and defence about a suitable response to the note. Defence counsel recollected asking the judge to discharge the jury, but in the judge's recollection both counsel agreed to his proposal to issue a redirection. The jury were recalled and the judge instructed them to put out of their minds any thoughts of prejudice and to consider the case on the evidence alone.

After a further direction in which the judge told the jury that he could accept a majority verdict, the defendant was found guilty by a 10-2 majority. The applicant was sentenced to six years' imprisonment. His applications for leave to appeal against conviction were refused.

The European Court of Human Rights stressed that the impartiality of a tribunal including a jury had to be determined on the basis of both a subjective and an objective test.

Since there was no proof of actual or subjective bias on the part of one or more jurors, and evidence of such could not be adduced by questioning them about the allegations in the note because of the rule in English law governing the secrecy of jury deliberations, the appropriate starting point was to examine whether the trial judge had done all that could be required of him under article 6.1 to dispel any objectively justified doubts about the jury's impartiality.

The court had particular regard to the steps taken by the judge on receipt of the jury's note. He had not dismissed the allegation outright but had sought the views of prosecution and defence counsel on a suitable reaction to it. He had concluded that, of the options available to him at that stage of the trial, the matter could best be dealt with by reconvening the jury and issuing a firm redirection in open court.

As an experienced judge, having observed the jury throughout the trial, he had no doubt been aware of the possibility of discharging them or asking them in open court whether they were capable of continuing and returning a verdict on the evidence alone. Defence counsel had not in fact pressed for either of these courses, and it could thus be reasonably inferred that he had not considered that either had been warranted in the circumstances.

At most, defence counsel would appear to have asked the judge to investigate the circumstances which had motivated the writing of the note. However, any such investigation would have been impossible because of the rule on secrecy of jury deliberations.

The redirection itself had been forceful, detailed and carefully worded, with particular emphasis on the jury members' sworn duty to try the case on the evidence alone, to the exclusion of any thoughts of prejudice of any kind. The tenor of the redirection, coupled with the fact that no further allegations of racial bias were made, led the court to conclude that the trial judge had taken sufficient steps to any objective doubts about the jury's impartiality.

While the guarantee of a fair trial might in certain circumstances require a judge to discharge a jury, in the present case a carefully worded redirection was sufficient.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines