Conspiracy to murder trial collapsed after jurors researched online – costing taxpayer estimated £1.4million
Four jurors have been sentenced after a conspiracy to murder trial collapsed when they were found to be carrying out their own research on the internet.
The jurors used their mobile phones to search for details of the defendants, who were standing trial over two shootings in Nottinghamshire in 2018.
The research – which is illegal because jurors should only use evidence heard in court to come to their conclusions – came to light as jury members deliberated their verdicts following the end of evidence in the case.
An investigation was launched, four people were charged and the trial collapsed, costing an estimated £1.4million to the public purse. A retrial was ordered.
Now the jurors – Tina Denning, Ann-Marie Fletcher, Sharon Doughty, and Jamie Lowe, have all been sentenced for breaching the Juries Act 1974.
The trial involved two shootings, one in October 2018, when multiple shots were fired through the window of a house in Upper Langwith near the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border.
The second took place in November that year when a young woman was hit in the arm when a gunman riding a moped fired five shots toward the Das Kino bar in Fletcher Gate, Nottingham city centre.
Eight people were charged with a number of offences connected to both incidents – resulting in a long-running trial held at Nottingham Crown Court at the end of 2019 and into the start of 2020.
Immediately after the jury was sworn in, in October 2019, members were warned they should not carry out their own research on any aspect of the case and were warned – repeatedly – that doing so would be a criminal offence.
The jury retired to consider verdicts regarding six of the defendants in February 2020.
It was during deliberations that concerns were raised about jurors carrying out their own research, and in some cases, sharing that research with others.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Sinski from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit said: “Not only did this offending result in a significant monetary wastage to the public purse, but the collapse of the trial caused witnesses to have to go through the traumatic experience of giving their evidence again at a retrial, as well as causing delay to the resolution of the case.
“These four jurors were well aware that they should not have been engaging in their own research into aspects of this case.
“Any action which interferes with the administration of justice is a serious breach and I hope the sentences imposed sends a warning to other jurors about their essential responsibilities.”
Fletcher, 41, pleaded guilty to four counts of researching the case during the trial period and was given a six-month sentence suspended for a year, and 120 hours unpaid work.
Doughty, 51, pleaded guilty to two of the same counts and a further charge of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.
She was given a six-month sentence suspended for a year, and 120 hours unpaid work.
Lowe, 27, pleaded guilty to four counts of researching the case and was given a four-month sentence suspended for a year and must complete 80 hours unpaid work.
Denning, aged 50, pleaded guilty to one count of researching the case during the trial period and a second count of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.
She was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, alongside 80 hours unpaid work.