Jailed teenage juror: I was stupid
Friday 23 December 2011
A teenage juror jailed for halting a trial after pretending he was ill so he could watch a musical admitted today that he had been "stupid".
Matthew Banks, 19, was released this morning after serving four days of a 14-day sentence at a young offenders' institution.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, he said he had no idea that the trial would have to be halted while he was not there as he had heard that cases sometimes sat with just 11 jurors.
He said he could not put into words how much he regretted his actions during the trial at Manchester Crown Court, after which he was found to be in contempt of court.
He told Victoria Derbyshire: "I don't know how to say how much I do regret what I did. Hindsight is a brilliant thing and I know I would not have done it if I had any idea that the case would have to be postponed.
"I knew it was stupid, but the ticket had been bought for me for a present and there was just a lot of people I didn't want to let down."
Mr Banks, who is studying French at Manchester University, said he had no idea he would end up in jail.
He said: "When I was told to go to court I was just told that the judge might want to speak to me before the case restarted, then I was taken straight up to the dock and remanded in custody.
"I spoke to a barrister who said he was probably just flexing his legal muscles and I should get a fine.
"When I found out I was going to prison I just felt numb."
Mr Banks went to London to see Chicago with his mother, Debbie Ennis, 49, who told the radio show she had no idea her son was meant to be sitting on the jury that day.
She said she thought the sentence was "very harsh", adding: "When you think that there are people that commit crimes that hurt other people and they get off."
Mr Banks said he was "happy" to have been released before Christmas, adding that he had been locked in his cell for his own safety after his fellow inmates had found out that he was gay.
"People were just negative from then on," he said. "Before that people were quite ok to me, they just let me be really. But as soon as they found that out I started to get a lot of trouble."
Mrs Ennis said the family was now looking at appealing his conviction as it could damage her son's future job prospects.
The week-long trial that Mr Banks had been sitting on later continued in his absence with the remaining 11 jurors reaching a verdict.
Judge Martin Rudland, who presided over the trial and sentenced Mr Banks, labelled him "frivolous".
He said he locked him up "with a heavy heart" but added that lying to court officials for such a frivolous reason was a serious offence, which carries a maximum sentence of two years.
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