The Vicky Pryce jury proves the system works

Share

Hang on a minute: I know we're all guffawing over the behaviour of the jury in the trial of Vicky Pryce, but are there really grounds for assuming that something went badly wrong? Hilarious as some of their questions to the judge appeared to be, it's possible to come to a very different conclusion, namely that the system actually worked rather well.

In this scenario, which seemed to get the support of the former lord chief justice of England and Wales, Lord Woolf, on Radio 4's Today programme, the jury's questions were not the product of startling naivety, but looked like a successful attempt by one or more of the jurors to alert the judge to the fact that the discussion in the jury room was going in alarming directions.

In Latin grammar, the word "num" at the beginning of a sentence indicates that it requires a negative answer. Several of the jury's questions appeared to fall into this category, inviting a robust response. The wording of one – "Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it? – almost demands that Mr Justice Sweeney answer "No", if not dismiss the jury on the spot.

Another of the questions offered the biggest clue to what may have happened during the jury's secret discussions. When jurors are selected, there's a tacit assumption that they're acting on behalf of the state. English law is secular and Ms Pryce, whose trial starts again tomorrow, isn't accused of an offence laid down in the Bible or the Koran. She's accused of the common law offence of perverting the course of justice, which she denies on the unusual ground of marital coercion.

So why did the jury ask whether "religious conviction" was a reason for a wife to feel that she had no other choice but to obey her husband?

The judge's response was brusque and unequivocal: "This is not, with respect, a question about this case at all." He's right, and a reasonable inference is that one or more of the jurors had strong religious convictions which they intended to use when reaching a verdict.

This is supported by a report in the Daily Mail, which revealed that the jury rose 30 minutes early on two occasions because a juror had to keep a "religious observance". And while it doesn't matter a jot if most of the jury were of Afro-Caribbean or Asian origin, as the paper also claimed, it does matter if some jurors were judging the case not on the facts and the law, but through the prism of personal religious conviction.

If I do something wrong, I want – and, indeed, I have a right – to be judged according to secular law. If jurors are regularly bringing religion into the jury room, I'd be very worried indeed, and there's clearly a case for further research in this area.

But in this instance, at least, it looks as if someone blew the whistle – and that strikes me as a vindication of the system.

www.politicalblonde.com; twitter.com/@polblonde

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
 

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Robert Fisk
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent