Belfast Telegraph

Juror who allegedly discussed trial in Belfast pub faces possible contempt charge in legal first for Northern Ireland

By Michael Donnelly

A juror faces the possibility of contempt of court proceedings for allegedly discussing a criminal case in public, in what is thought to be the first case of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC said he would decide next week whether to initiate proceedings and advised the juror to seek legal advice.

The juror in the case was dismissed, along with the rest of the jury.

Judge Kerr told them that "unfortunately because of the conduct" of one of their number, "you have all wasted your time".

Judge Kerr took the highly unusual step after the juror, in addition to allegedly admitting talking about the trial in a public bar, also admitted possible prejudice in the case, which was already under deliberation by the jury.

They had already spent two hours on Friday considering their verdicts before retiring for the weekend and were expected to continue with their task yesterday morning. However, defence QC Gavin Duffy claimed that a relative of the defendant had overheard a juror discussing the case in a north Belfast bar. The juror, when questioned by Judge Kerr, admitted being in the bar and telling "a number of people" he had been on a jury "all week", but denied discussing the case or naming anyone involved.

However, when asked if he had voiced any remarks about the case, the juror revealed: "Well it happened to my daughter before ... something similar".

The juror also admitted, in the words of Judge Kerr, that "that would influence you as a juror".

He later accepted he had been "directed" not to discuss the case, and was "asked directly" if there was any reason he could not sit on the jury, nor was he to have any sympathy or prejudice whatsoever for or against an accused.

Dismissing the juror from sitting on any panel, Judge Kerr advised him to "go and see a solicitor and tell him that I am thinking of dealing with you by way of contempt of court".

While it may be one of the first cases of its kind in Northern Ireland, in recent years a woman juror in England was jailed for contempt of court for going on the internet to get additional material on the case on which she was sitting.

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