Shooting trial collapses at £1.4m cost after jurors looked up defendants online
Four jurors caused a major shooting trial to collapse at a cost of £1.4 million to the taxpayer after researching the defendants online.
They searched on their mobile phones while sitting in a trial for conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to possess firearms, forcing a retrial for four defendants, the Crown Prosecution Service said.
Tina Denning, Ann-Marie Fletcher, Sharon Doughty and Jamie Lowe were sworn in as jury members for the trial involving eight defendants on October 2 2019 at Nottingham Crown Court, and the case was due to start at the end of that year.
The trial related to two incidents, one on October 2, 2018, when multiple shots were fired through the window of a house in Upper Langwith, and another on November 3, 2018, when a young woman was hit in the arm when a gunman riding a moped fired five shots toward the Das Kino bar in Fletcher Gate, Nottingham city centre.
Eight people were charged with a number of offences connected to both incidents – resulting in a long-running trial held at Nottingham Crown Court at the end of 2019 and into the start of 2020.
The jury retired to consider verdicts, regarding six of the defendants, on 12 February 2020 - but it was during retirement that concerns about certain jury members’ conduct came to light.
It was reported some had been undertaking their own research on aspects of the case and had in some cases had shared the information with other jurors.
This disclosure caused the discharge of the jury part way through deliberations, on 10 March 2020, with verdicts still outstanding on four of the defendants. The other two were acquitted by the jury.
Due to the misconduct of the four jurors - Denning, Fletcher, Doughty, and Lowe - a retrial was needed.
The cost of the abandoned first trial was estimated to have been more than £1.4 million to the public purse.
Researching any aspect of a case as a juror is a criminal offence and warnings were given throughout the trial, with the research only coming to light after the jury retired to consider its verdicts in February 2020.
As well as the four jurors researching the case, the information was shared with others, forcing the jury to be discharged on March 10 2020 with four defendants still awaiting verdicts.
The four jurors pleaded guilty to several offences under the Juries Act 1974 and were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on Monday.
'Failed to comply with directions'
Andrew Baxter, deputy chief crown prosecutor from CPS East Midlands, said: "Jury trials are a central component of our justice system.
"The diligence of the vast majority of jurors means we can be confident that decisions are based exclusively on the evidence given in court.
"However, despite numerous reminders throughout the trial, these four failed to comply with the strict and careful directions given by the trial judge whilst undertaking this hugely important public function."
Fletcher, 41, of Ironville, Derbys, pleaded guilty to four counts of researching the case during the trial period.
She was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
Doughty, 51, of Mountsorrel, Leics, pleaded guilty to two counts of researching the case during the trial period and a further charge of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.
She was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 120 hours of unpaid work.
Lowe, 27, of Long Eaton, Derbys, pleaded guilty to four counts of researching the case during the trial period.
He was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 80 hours of unpaid work.
Denning, 50, of Nottingham, pleaded guilty to one count of researching the case during the trial period and a second count of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.
She was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 80 hours of unpaid work.
Det Chief Insp Mark Sinski, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: "Not only did this offending result in a significant monetary wastage to the public purse, but the collapse of the trial caused witnesses to have to go through the traumatic experience of giving their evidence again at a retrial, as well as causing delay to the resolution of the case.
"These four jurors were well aware that they should not have been engaging in their own research into aspects of this case.
"Any action which interferes with the administration of justice is a serious breach and I hope the sentences imposed send a warning to other jurors about their essential responsibilities."