In rare cases, approaches are made to members of the jury during a trial by parties attempting to influence their verdicts. If the interference is serious enough to taint the whole jury, they must be discharged from reaching verdicts. Section 46(3) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 then allows the judge to order that the trial should continue without a jury, with the judge assuming their functions and deciding the verdicts.
In this lengthy fraud trial at Birmingham Crown Court, the jury tampering was only brought to light four days into jury deliberations, about a fortnight after it had occurred. The case was unusual because the nine defendants took different views as to whether it would be fair for verdicts to be reached by a judge alone. The judge’s order was reviewed on interlocutory appeal before a senior constitution of the Court of Appeal.
Andreas O’Shea and Greg Unwin leading Greg Wedge, led the arguments for the opposing sides in the appeal. The Court ordered that the trial should continue without a jury and provided further authoritative guidance about the approach judges should take if the situation arises in future.