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R v Young (Stephen) (1994) The Times, 30 December, Court of Appeal



THE JURY DRINK AND HOTEL ROOMS, "ENTERING INTO THE SPIRIT" A CASE FOR INVESTIGATION


Recent episodes with juries have made me reflect on the rules to which they are subject. It was reported in The Times, 30 September 1992 that a judge was so angered when an impatient juror asked during a trial: "When is it dinner time?" that he dismissed all the 12 jurors and announced a retrial. The male juror, in his thirties, passed the hand-written question to Judge George Shindler QC via the court clerk at the Inner London Crown Court one minute before the lunch adjournment. Later the juror admitted drinking.

Drink it would seem played a part in the decision probably known as the "OUIJA" Board case. The Court's reasons have only just been made public. R v Young (Stephen) The Times, 30 December was a Court of Appeal decision. In brief, the allegation was that while in the hotel, using a ouija board, some members of the jury purported to make contact with the deceased Harry Fuller and to have received certain information from him bearing upon the case.

The Court of Appeal referred to R v Hood (1968) 53 Cr. App. R 466); R v Brandon (1969) 53 Cr. App. R 466); R v McCluskey (1493) 98 Cr. App. R 216); R v Thompson (1962) Cr. App. R 72); R v Bean [1991] Crim L.R. 843); and R v Less, (1993) The Times March 30 and said that the court could not, after verdict, inquire into what passed between jurors during their deliberations in their retiring room in the respects specified in section 8(1) Contempt of Court Act 1981.

But did the same embargo apply to what might have happened during a jury's accommodation in an hotel during their retirement? In their Lordships' view the whole object of sending a jury to an hotel was to give them a break, rest or respite from their deliberations.

Judges in practice, told juries they should have a break from their deliberations until they returned to their jury room the next morning and should not deliberate at the hotel. The reality of the situation was that a jury's stay in an hotel was in fact a hiatus between sessions in the jury room during which the jury were in the course of their deliberations.

Their Lordships had concluded that they were entitled to inquire into what happened at the hotel but not what happened thereafter in the jury room.

Accordingly, they ordered that affidavits should be taken from each of the 12 jurors and from the two bailiffs looking after the jurors at the hotel.

Their Lordships required the affidavits to cover what, if anything, happened at the hotel, but not to breach section 8 of the 1981 Act by trespassing on what happened during the jury's deliberations in their retiring room.

It seems that at about 11pm the bailiffs conducted the jurors to their rooms. Thereafter it was clear that four jurors the foreman and three women, got together in a room. A ouija board was set up.

The word "ouija" was simply a combination of the French word oui and the German word ja and meant, therefore, "yes, yes". In the present case there was no formal board. Letters of the alphabet were printed on scraps of paper and a glass was used as a pointer. Those present each put a finger on the glass, which then moved towards a succession of letters thereby purporting to receive a message

According to one of those present "Ray then asked, Is anyone there? The glass went to Yes. Ray said, Who is it? The glass spelt out Harry Fuller. When I say the glass spelt it out, I mean it went to each letter. I realised Fuller was the subject of the evidence we were hearing."

The description continued, including the message: "Vote guilty tomorrow..."

The juror went on: "It is only right to say I was crying by this time and the other ladies were upset as well. We realised it had gone too far and we ended the exercise. Ray threw the paper away. We retired to our rooms and agreed not to relate what we had done to anyone."

The Court of Appeal said that, despite that agreement it was clear that the matter was discussed at breakfast with other jurors who had not been present at the ouija board and one of them was told, in addition to the account given above, that "Walther PPK" was mentioned as having emerged from the session. A gun of that type' had been referred to in the evidence.

Their Lordships added that more than one juror admitted on affidavit to having had more drink than was good for them while in the hotel and to feeling the worse for it the next morning Neither of the bailiffs seemed to have been aware of that or of the fact that four Jurors had got together in one room over a ouija board. Their Lordships considered and stated that, in their view, what had occurred in the present case was not merely objectionable but amounted to a material irregularity.

It seemed to their Lordships that what mattered was not whether the answers were truly from the deceased, but whether the jurors believed them to be so or whether they might have been influenced by the answers received during that exercise or experiment.

Their Lordships did not think it could be laughed off as being merely a drunken game which the court should disregard as the Crown had suggested. The three women jurors were upset about what emerged. One was crying and took the view that it had gone too far. Why if it was just a game? And why, when the verdict had been unanimous, should one juror, not one of the four, have been sufficiently concerned to consult a solicitor and make a statement about what had happened?

Their Lordships concluded there was a real danger that what had occurred during that misguided ouija session might have influenced some jurors and might thereby have prejudiced Young


For those reasons their Lordships had allowed the appeal but ordered a retrial.

At the retrial the defendant was found guilty


Comment

SPIRITS it would seem may have played a part after all, but they may well have been from a bottle, the significant point is, surely the Lord Chancellor could make it a rule that "Drinking on duty" is totally prohibited whilst serving on a jury: isn't that the least justice requires of 12 persons who probably have the liberty of the subject in their hands, to say nothing of a responsibility towards state funds; how much did just these two retrials cost us?


Rob Jerrard