Juror's flirtatious note for QC leads to fraudsters' appeal

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The Independent Online

The Court of Appeal is to reconsider the convictions of three fraudsters because the forewoman of the jury sent champagne and a flirtatious note to the prosecuting counsel a few weeks after the trial.

Lawyers believe the case could make legal history if the judges interview the jurors about their deliberations.

The counsel was Richard Latham QC, who went on to prosecute in the Soham murder trial. The note, which complimented Mr Latham on his success in the trial and gave the juror's phone number, asked: "What does a lady need to do to attract your attention?" Mr Latham returned the gift and immediately told the trial judge, defence counsel and the Serious Fraud Office.

Mr Latham told the Law Society Gazette: "I had no contact with the juror whatsoever, other than addressing her and the 11 other jurors in court. I did not meet her in the lift, I did not bump into her in the street - there was no contact."

Lawyers for the defendants have appealed against the convictions at Southwark Crown Court last year on the basis that the forewoman had demonstrated a strong personal or emotional attachment to the lead counsel, which became evident after the trial.

They argue that if such an attachment had been revealed during the trial, she would have been removed from the jury. "The juror concerned was a dominant personality within the jury not simply because she was the forewoman but also by her overall demeanour," the grounds of appeal state.

Lord Justice Rose, vice-president of the criminal division of the Court of Appeal, has given permission to appeal on this point and will preside over a hearing to consider whether inquiries should be made of the jury.

The judges will first have to address Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which makes jury deliberations confidential, although there have been cases where the jury has been questioned about the events surrounding its deliberations.

But the jury expert Professor John Spencer of Cambridge University said: "I believe this would be the first time jurors have been questioned on what has taken place in the jury room."

A hearing to decide whether to question the jury will be held in the next few weeks.