Unwittingly took the place of a missing male juror
A crown court trial had to be restarted after a woman “followed the crowd” and accidently joined the jury, it has been reported.
The bizarre incident, which is said to have unfolded last week at Chelmsford Crown Court, saw the unnamed woman enter the courtroom and join the jurors — despite not being selected to sit on the trial.
The Daily Gazette reports that the woman had been sitting in the pool of jurors, from which panels are drawn, when she followed a group into the courtroom and joined them on the jury bench.
The woman only realised her error after the prosecuting barrister had completed her opening address to the court. She quickly alerted the judge, who in turn sent the jury out.
It later transpired that the red-faced juror had unwittingly taken the place of a missing male juror who had already been sworn in to hear the case, but wasn’t present.
Having called the woman back into court, Judge Jonathan Seely reassured her that she had done the right thing in raising the issue as soon as possible. He said:
“Don’t worry, none of us noticed or noted it. The person who should be there for some reason did not head down. There were 12 people sworn in as jurors yesterday, you were not one of them. There is no question of me discharging you, you’re not on this jury.”
The judge went on to confirm that the case would have to be restarted, this time with the correct jury panel, and that the woman could go back into the pool and serve on another jury.
Before her release, the judge ensured she had no connections to the upcoming trial and warned her not to discuss what she had heard during the opening speech with anyone.
With the correct jury now in place, Judge Seely reportedly said: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am not sure in my 30 years working in the courts this has ever happened before. The lady who was sitting in your position was, of course, not a member of this jury and simply followed the crowd I suppose.”
“I have discussed the situation with counsel and there is no harm and no problem in the sense this was at a very early stage of the case.”
Earlier this year Legal Cheek reported that Keith Cutler, a circuit court judge and the recorder of Winchester, had been selected for jury service on a case he was due to hear. After some initial confusion, the bigwigs at the jury service eventually let Cutler off the hook.