Two trials in quick succession have been affected by particularly spectacular blunders – albeit not on the part of legal professionals. One trial in Leeds saw the jury dismissed after they were approached with a remarkable lack of subtlety and offered cash bribes, while another case in Cardiff was disrupted when it turned out that a person in the court was live-streaming the trial.
One of these cases was a trial at Leeds Crown Court over an alleged “cash for crash” scheme which had resulted in the death of a pensioner. 88-year-old Betty Laird was travelling as a passenger in a car when another vehicle, driven by the three defendants and another individual who has already pleaded guilty, drove into the side of it. Ms Laird sustained fatal injuries to her spine in the accident, and it is alleged that the men in the other vehicle caused the accident deliberately with the intention of making fraudulent insurance claims for personal injury.
At one point during proceedings, the court was evacuated because the fire alarm sounded. In this time, some people took the opportunity to approach members of the jury and offer them bribes, with relatively little attempt at subtlety, with some of the attempts being caught on camera. Interestingly, different jurors were offered cash in return for different verdicts. Three jurors were approached together and offered £500 each in return for guilty verdicts. Another was approached by a different individual and offered a cash bribe in exchange for a verdict of not guilty. A fifth juror reported being persistently followed by a man who was believed to be holding a sum of money, quite possibly with the intent of making another bribe offer, but in the end the two did not actually speak.
The case is also notable for the fact that the judge, Mr Justice Goss, not only dismissed the jury as a result of the attempted tampering but decided to continue the trial without a jury. This was done with rarely-used powers contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Another case in Cardiff was also affected by an attempt at unusual and not exactly intelligent attempt at unlawful conduct. David Davies, 39, ignored the fact that cameras are absolutely forbidden in court and the many prominent notices forbidding the use of mobile phones insude the building. He not only decided that he would use his mobile phone to film proceedings, which he was court doing as one witness provided evidence, but that he would stream that evidence live on Facebook in real time.
A member of the public saw the stream and alerted South Wales Police. Davies has now been jailed for 28 days PC Richard Sellek said that the sentence should “serve as a warning to others who think that the law does not apply to them.”