Tag Archives: contempt of court

Two jurors imprisoned for internet research/Facebook messages

On 23 July 2013, two men, Mr Davey and Mr Beard, were despite their protestations of innocence, found to have committed contempt of court. The transcript of that hearing is available here. On 29 July 2013, they were sentenced to two months’ immediate custody each for contempt of court.

The proceedings related to activity amounting to a real risk of interference with the administration of justice arising out of the two men’s activities whist serving as jurors in criminal trials. The two cases were unrelated save for these proceedings.

Mr Davey

Davey, aged 20 when summoned to serve on a jury, had a Facebook account with 400 friends.

On his arrival at court Mr Davey, like the other jurors, was shown the jury video. It included statements in the following terms:

“Please do not discuss the details of the trial with anyone other than your fellow jurors, not even your family.”

“Do not speak to anyone at all about the cases you hear.”

“Do not use social networking sites to post any aspects of your jury service.”

At the end of his first day at the Crown Court at Wood Green, he posted the following message to his Facebook profile:

“Woooow I wasn’t expecting to be in a jury Deciding a paedophile’s fate, I’ve always wanted to Fuck up a paedophile & now I’m within the law!”

Mr Davey was discharged and the case continued with 11 jurors. The matter was then investigated by the police.

The Court found that this constituted a contempt of court.

Mr Beard

Beard was aged 29 when summoned for jury service at the Crown Court at Kingston upon Thames. He was selected to sit on a long trial expected to last about 2 months. About 5.5 weeks into the trial, the following (taken from the transcript) came to the Court’s attention:

There were various conversations going on [amongst the jury], and in the conversation to which [Mr Sewell, a juror] was a party a question was asked as to how many investor witnesses would be heard from. One of the other members of the jury, Mr Beard, stated that the number of investors affected was about 1,800, although Mr Sewell did not recall the precise number. Mr Sewell asked Mr Beard where that figure came from as he was concerned he had missed some evidence. Mr Beard then stated that he had done a search on the internet through Google using the name of the operation and he got the figure that way. Mr Sewell then said “No, No, No, No! Don’t tell me about that. You shouldn’t have done that. I don’t want to hear about it.”

The jury was discharged. The cost of the defence amounted to £119,712 and the prosecution costs had been between £190,000 and £200,000.

The Attorney-General

The Attorney said:

Jurors who use the internet to research a case undermine justice. It creates a risk that the defendant will be convicted or acquitted, not on the evidence, but on unchallenged and untested material discovered by the juror.

Equally, the case of Kasim Davey shows that jurors must follow the directions given to them by the trial judge not to discuss the case outside the jury room, including discussions and posts on the internet.


Both were sentenced to 2 months’ immediate custody. A transcript of the sentence is thus far unavailable. We know that no orders for costs were made.


Many on Twitter were shocked by the imposition of immediate custodial sentence. The courts take threats to the administration of justice very seriously. This can be seen by the ‘usual’ sentence for perverting the course of justice (e.g. Chris Huhne), misconduct in public office (e.g. police officers accessing the PNC for criminal purposes), perjury (e.g. Lord Archer) and contempt of court (see HM Att-Gen v Dallas).

Some are of the view that a custodial sentence is wholly unsuitable and totally unnecessary in cases like this. They cite the fact that the offenders are neither violent nor sexual offenders, and neither are ‘dangerous’ so as to pose a threat to the public.

Critics of such a view is that offences against the administration of justice must be dealt with robustly; any sentence for such an offence which is perceived as soft could mark the collapse of the system all together. Without respect for the juror’s oath or affirmation, it could become worthless. For example, if the penalty for witness intimidation isn’t that great, on a cost/benefit analysis it may be worth the risk of being caught.

Mr Davey and Mr Beard will have approximately one month in which to ponder that issue. They probably won’t make the same mistake again.

Man attacks judge in court and receives 18 months


Paul Graham, aged 27, works as a fitness instructor. He was in HHJ John Devaux’s court at the Crown Court at Ipswich watching his brother, Phillip Graham aged 30, be sentenced for causing death by dangerous driving.

Nothing particularly remarkable about that, you might think. Well this is where it got interesting.

Paul Graham ran from the public gallery towards the bench, where the Judge sits. He ‘vaulted’ the wooden gate at the side of the bench and attacked the Judge, throwing punches, pulling his wig off and knocking his glasses off.

A local clergyman and the High Sheriff of Suffolk were sat alongside the Judge, and ‘did their best to bring the attack to an end’. Police officers rushed to the Judge’s aid and restrained Mr Graham. No injury was caused, although witnesses reported the Judge as looking ‘shaken’.

So, what happened next?

Well he was taken down to the cells at the court. The case law suggests that for contempt of court cases, there is a ‘cooling off period’ in which the contemptnor can consider their actions – this is usually most appropriate where there has been an outburst in court, and an
apology (and perhaps a few words to the effect that the contemptnor is a bit of a wally) will suffice.

In this case, Mr Graham was not so fortunate. He was remanded and dealt with by a different judge the following day.

HHJ Goodin stated the following:

“When the judge had passed the inevitable sentence of imprisonment, you left the public gallery at speed, travelled down the side of the court very fast, vaulted over the wooden gate at the side of the bench, physically attacked Judge Devaux by punches which actually caused no physical injury,”

“That conduct was disruptive, insulting and intimidating. It was a contempt of court.

“We have in this country courts which are open to the public, but what you did was an attack
on justice, on the administration of justice, an attack on the rule of law.

“Any violent physical attack on the judge or any member of court staff or officer of the court must be dealt with severely.”

Graham’s advocate stated that he did not accept that he threw any punches, but that he wished to apologise unreservedly.

He was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

So, what of the sentence?

The maximum sentence is 2 years. Against that, how does 18 months fare? Well, my personal view is that it is a bit harsh.

There are few cases on attacking judges and the two that spring to mind are R v Russell 2006 EWCA Crim 470 and R v Phelps 2009 EWCA Crim 2308.

In Russell, during the summing up, the defendant (who was later convicted of attempted murder and other offences, for which he received 24 years) vaulted the dock, ran in front of the jury and attacked the Judge. He shouted, “Do you think you are going to stitch me up. I deserve a fair trial”. He tore the Judge’s sash off, but the Judge held D and kept him at arm’s length for several seconds until he was restrained by police. He was given 18 months consecutive to the sentences for his other offences. The Court of Appeal said that was merciful.

Phelps is perhaps less helpful as the violence was more serious, there were injuries, and
the contemptnor had repeatedly shouted: ‘give me the maximum [sentence]’ and ‘all judges are cunts’. He received 21 months.

It may be worth considering that, where the violence is more serious, or there are actual physical injuries, it may be appropriate to charge and assault instead of contempt for such an incident in a court room.

Whilst discussing this on Twitter with a few other lawyers, it became apparent that opinion was split. Dan and I felt it was a little harsh (but acknowledged we are a bit soft) but @Defencebrief (worth a follow) made the very valid (and persuasive) points:

  1. Is there a more serious contempt (charged as contempt) than attacking one of HM’s
    judges in a court room?
  2. The motivation – presumably anger and revenge at passing a lawful sentence – could
    not really be more serious.
  3. If Graham behaves like that in a court room, imagine what he might be like if, in a
    pub, someone accidentally spilled his pint!

Phelps and Russell certainly support @Defencebrief’s view.

It is interesting to note that had this been an incident of assaulting a police officer, the starting point would have been a fine (see p 19). There is a world of difference between those two sentences. Do you think that’s right?