Juror fined £450 after smoking cannabis on rape trial lunch break


A juror on a rape trial who smoked a cannabis joint in his lunch hour was today fined £450 after admitting contempt of court.

Shezad Hussain, 26, puffed the drug at a bus stop just yards from the entrance to Bolton Crown Court, Greater Manchester.

But he was spotted by a juror on another case who alerted police.

Hussain at first denied but then admitted the offence, blaming stress following a violent attack on his family-owned corner shop by "gangsters".

The father-of-one from Hamel Street, Bolton had been one of 12 jurors on a week-long case of a man accused of raping a child.

Last Friday lunch time, with the jury about to go out to consider its verdicts later that afternoon, the father-of-one went outside on his break when he was spotted smoking the joint by the other juror, who retrieved the used butt from the pavement to hand to police.

Hussain at first denied it was his until he had a change of heart and apologised when warned by Pc Michael Bailey that the butt could be examined for his DNA.

The trial judge then had to adjourn the case while the police investigated and legal discussions took place.

Hussain was dismissed from the jury on Monday, charged with contempt of court and told to speak to a solicitor.

Today he appeared before the same judge, this time sitting at Manchester Crown Court, where he admitted the single charge of contempt of court.

Hussain, who works in a Cash and Carry shop as well as the family corner shop, was fined two weeks wages, £450.

Ben Lawrence, defending, told the judge there were significant mitigating circumstances to explain the Hussain's behaviour.

"Mr Hussain is no more than an occasional user of cannabis. He uses it probably unwisely to deal with times of stress," Mr Lawrence said.

Hussain said it was the first and only time he had used the drug while sitting as a juror and only did so after by chance bumping into a friend outside the court who was smoking cannabis and offered him the joint.

The defendant lives with his pregnant wife, two-year-old son, mother and two sisters at their corner shop in Bolton. Mr Lawrence said "just a few weeks" ago the premises suffered a violent break-in by two "well known gangsters" who made threats and attempted to rob the shop. Both were arrested by police.

No papers or drugs were found on Hussain after the cannabis incident at the court and he did not appear "drunk" or incapable of serving on the jury.

In any event the jury was unable to reach a verdict and a retrial was ordered.

Passing sentence today, Recorder Nicholas Clarke QC, said he accepted normally Hussain was a hard working family man with no previous criminal record.

"I accept you have embarrassed yourself and brought shame on yourself," the judge added.

"Defendants, witnesses and the public are entitled to expect those who come to do jury service will do it without taking drugs."