In a judgment sure to serve as a warning to potential jurors around the country, Catherine Leahy was found guilty of accepting a bribe under the Bribery Act 2010. She committed the crime during the five-month money laundering and drug trafficking trial of Graham Clarke and others. Leahy was the spokeswoman on the jury, which after 3 days of jury deliberations acquitted the alleged drug dealer and others with a not proven verdict. Not proven is a verdict of acquittal, based on the state's failure to prove guilt rather than any proof of innocence.
Following the first prosecution of its kind in Scotland it was found that Leahy had accepted bribes and she was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. It is clear that Leahy took advantage of her public responsibility of jury service and that this conduct strikes at the heart of the justice system.
As a result of Leahy’s conviction prosecutors are now considering the circumstances of the original trial in which Leahy served as a juror and may bring a fresh prosecution against Graham Clarke and others.
In Scotland a jury is made up of 15 people randomly selected from a larger pool of potential jurors. They are sworn to hear evidence and act as the decision maker, giving a verdict on the trial being heard in front of them. Whilst in the deliberation room it is unlikely you will ever witness peer pressure as intense elsewhere in your life whilst reaching a verdict, which is confirmed by a simple majority of 8.
Whilst Leahy’s conduct clearly falls well below the expected standard of a juror, it opens up the question what rules must jurors follow?
As a juror you must not make any enquiries regarding the case on your own, or discuss the case with anyone except your fellow jurors. Jurors are not allowed to use the internet or social sites for any purposes related to the case, this includes posting comments on the internet or social sites. To do so amounts to a contempt of court, this is punishable by imprisonment.
Jurors can discuss the trial once it has finished, but they cannot discuss what happened in the deliberation room. It is a criminal offence for anyone to disclose information about the jury room discussions or to divulge any individual juror’s opinions.
If anyone approaches you about the trial in court you must tell a court officer immediately and if you are approached outside court then you must tell a police officer. Attempts at interfering with jurors have been considered in Stewart v HMA 1980 JC 103 and in Hamilton v HMA, 1986 SLT 663. In both cases a juror had been approached and offered a substantial bribe in return for influencing the other members of the jury. In each instance the approached juror was discharged.
For more information on juror rules see: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/coming-to-court/jurors
Blog by Tara Davison