Tag Archives: Contempt

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.

Sentence

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.

Comment

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.

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Kiss me quick –smooch in the dock leaves lovers facing custody for contempt

Love  and  marriage

Image courtesy of http://www.torange.us

Picture the scene. It is Valentine’s Day. You’ve taken your beloved to Canterbury, home of Christopher Marlowe, the splendid cathedral and the delightful Canterbury Crown Court.

You’re sat with your other half. You’ve made a bit of effort for your day out – put a shirt on no less. Unfortunately, the day takes a turn for the worse. The food is awful and there’s no wine – only water. Oh, and you’re sat in the dock of HHJ Byers’ court. But it is about to get even worse.

Samson Paine (pleaded to attempted robbery and possession of an offensive weapon) and Karla Shaw (pleaded to robbery and ABH) were before HHJ Byers and presumably were adjourned for sentence.

The Judge had reportedly admonished Samson for slouching and talking in the dock and asked for him to be taken to the cells. A female dock officer stepped between Samson and Karla but Karla reportedly threw her arms around her boyfriend and ‘planted a lingering kiss on his lips’

Kent Online, (from which we have taken the facts) stated that a barrister said:

 “It was a smacker of a kiss. I was married for 15 years and didn’t have a kiss like that.”

The pair were remanded in custody and the Judge said:

“At the end of this case they will be sentenced for contempt. I am not having it. They misbehaved last time, they misbehaved this time. Unless I make a firm stand, that will go on.”

“I hope it was worth it.”

Karla replied: “You don’t know how worth it that was. Happy Valentine’s. Sorry.”

The Judge later said:  “You can tell them, with my felicitations, they can look forward to a consecutive sentence. They plainly have absolutely no respect.”

Sentence

Should they be looking at custody? My personal view is no. I understand why the Judge was irritated, especially as they had been ‘misbehaving’ previously. Any sentence is understandably consecutive because there is little point if any punishment is subsumed into the sentence for the offences to which they have pleaded.

Perhaps there is a need to ‘send a message’ by adding on a couple of days to the sentence, but my preferred approach would be one I would probably take with any children I might have in the future; humiliation rather than punishment.

Is it not far better to bring them before the court, make them apologise, tell them they are immature and how they won’t be kissing one another for a while etc.?