Letters: Jury failed to get the message

Sir: Glenda Cooper's article "Twelve confused men and women" (30 September) reawakens an anxiety that I have had since doing jury service some time ago.

It was a complicated case and we were told again and again by the defence and prosecution that we had to be sure "beyond reasonable doubt", and the judge reiterated this warning in his summing up. All my fellow jurymen and jurywomen took this to mean that if any of the defendants could offer any explanation - however ludicrous - we should accept it.

One of the defendants had a sum of money in his pocket which was the exact sum arising from a drug deal which everyone agreed had taken place. He said that by an amazing coincidence it was the sum of money he had got from selling his car to a man whose name he couldn't remember and in a place he'd forgotten.

Did the jury believe him? Of course they didn't, but their reaction was "We've been told if there's any reasonable doubt we have to acquit him, and although none of us think it did happen the way he says, it is possible that it could have happened". He was acquitted on a majority verdict.

The judge asked the jury to stay on when the defendant was sentenced on another drug-dealing charge and the clerk of the court read out a string of previous convictions.

I believe that the message the barristers and the judge are sending out bears little relationship to the one that the jury is receiving.


Braintree, Essex