A "highly intelligent" juror who used the internet to discover that a defendant in a criminal trial had previously been charged with rape was jailed for six months yesterday for contempt of court.
Theodora Dallas, 34, a Greek-born psychology lecturer, "deliberately disobeyed" the judge's direction that she must not carry out independent research or discuss the case she was trying.
In a judgment sure to serve as a warning to potential jurors around the country, three judges sitting at the High Court in London, including Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said that the threat to justice posed by her actions was serious and that the use of the internet by any juror meant jail was "virtually inevitable".
Dr Dallas, 34, told her fellow jurors sitting in a case of grievous bodily harm at Luton Crown Court in July 2011, that she had found a newspaper report of a previous trial in which the defendant Barry Medlock had been accused and acquitted of rape – evidence which was not given in court. A fellow juror reported her remarks to the judge who aborted the trial. Medlock was later convicted and jailed in a new trial.
The academic, who is suffering from depression after being forced to resign her post from the University of Bedfordshire, claimed she had misunderstood the judge's direction. She said she sometimes struggled to grasp English. She claimed she had been checking the meaning of grievous bodily harm when she saw the report.
"I had no intention at all to prejudice the jury in any way. I had no intention to disobey what the judge said. I really apologise," she said in a statement.
Lord Judge described her as "a highly intelligent woman, extremely articulate in English" but said the time of the other jury members had been wasted and the public was put to additional unnecessary expense. The complainant was also forced to give evidence of his ordeal twice.
The court rejected Dr Dallas's counsel's plea to impose a suspended sentence. She will serve three months and be on licence for the remainder of the term.