++Breaking News: Jury in Vicky Pryce trial discharged after failing to reach a verdict

The BBC reports that the jury in Vicky Pryce’s trial for perverting the course of justice has been discharged after failing to reach a verdict. This comes after almost 4 days of deliberation. This morning they handed the judge a list of ten questions which the BBC have reported here.

A retrial with a new jury will start next Monday.  It’s likely that sentencing of her ex husband, Chris Huhne,  will be delayed until after this new trial.

As this matter remains sub judice,  personal comments about either Vicky or Chris won’t be published at least until the trial has concluded and then only if they’re in accordance with our published comments policy.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • “This morning they handed the judge a list of ten questions which the BBC have reported here.”

    Oh dear. Some of those questions make depressing reading for believers in the jury system.

  • I think that any critisism of a jury from the Judge presiding over the same case is simply not acceptable.
    The Judge should always be the impartial element in a legal case, and to publicly broadcast their views in
    this way is damaging to the jury system.
    The questions asked by the Jury were not stupid ones at all, and simply showed that the Jury actually cared about a proper verdict. Too many members of the legal profession simply want a bunch of ‘sheep’ to rubber stamp the verdict they desire.

  • Very interesting to see comments as they emerge (which I am sure they will, esp after the judge, in essence, decided to give them a public roasting!) FWIW, I think you see evidence of the sort of arguments which arise on forums on the net here, or should I say the sort of tactics we often see (eg straw men etc) It looks as though the judge was unfamiliar with this, or more likely, dealt with them as would a QC dealing with them like he would deal with an adversary in court! Not appropriate, of course, and one wonders how many other judges are dealing these days with the twin features of the obvious lack of deference, and tactical seeking of advantage by jurors in the arguments they are having in the jury room? I wonder if the judge will be criticised formally for his making public of these questions?

  • Liberal Neil 21st Feb '13 - 11:50am

    Mark & Tim – I think you’d have a fair point if the judge hadn’t already given very clear and detailed instructions to the jury.

    Some of their questions were stupid, in this light.

    What we don’t know is whether the questions reflected the whole jury, or whether some jurors realised that others were basing their judgement on things they shouldn’t and went back to the judge because of it.

  • The jury put in a lot of work to ask those questions. If some of them looked odd, they may have been attempts by the better-informed jurors to get the judge to help those who were less well informed. The judge didn’t make a lot of effort to do that.

    The jury stuck their heads above the parapet. The judge shot them down. Future juries are thereby encouraged to keep quiet, muddle through, and reach duff conclusions rather than owning up to their difficulties. Not good!

  • Michael Parsons 21st Feb '13 - 2:22pm

    Because Court procedure has becomne dominated by professional salaried/paid insiders the role of the people has been downgraded by the silencing of juries; and the people’s natural sense of right endangered by skilled rhetoric aimed at making the worst side look the best. We need reform – the juries should be entitled to ask many more such questions, and if necessary silence the “judge” who too often forgets that it is the juryn that has to decide. One very telling question was: could they use other informatioin known to them? Which I suggest means could they use material not m inced and pre-digested by the legal evidence-mill? Could they blow the whole contrived performance apart as it should be?
    Giving juries the power to summon witnesses and lawyers and cross question them and argue openly among themselves woulkd seem to be no bad first step to maiking justice a little more transparent and less Dickensian – in the teeth no doubt of entrenched opposition from a whole phalanx of well-paid pleaders.
    All praise to this jury because it tried to do its job!

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Feb '13 - 2:43pm

    I felt the questions were fair enough. If I were the foreman on a deadlocked jury (I have been a jury foreman, but in a case where we quickly came to a unanimous decision) I might draw up a list of questions like this, in part as David Allen suggests, to try and make clear to members who were less used to formal process than I am and who from that may have been holding things up, exactly what we are there for and how we should be proceeding.

    There is a bit of a contradiction in the jury system. On the one hand, decisions are supposed to be made purely on the basis of the evidence presented. On the other, the whole point of the system is that one brings one’s life experiences into it, and this is the basis on which decides on such things as what is “reasonable”.

  • Obviously the judge had already explained to them what “reasonable doubt” meant! If not, that alone would have been grounds for overturning a guilty verdict on appeal.

    Unfortunately some of the comments above are even more depressing than the jury’s questions …

  • I agree with Matthew and also feel that far too much is being made of this. Let’s face it this jury were asked to adjudicate on what in this day and age is a fairly bizarre law. It is not so surprising that the jurists might lack points of reference. The question about marriage vows was brushed aside by the judge, but probably goes to the heart of the origin of this particular law. It seems to me that it is the law in question that is causing the problem rather than the jury system.

  • And here’s a link to a copy of the directions that the judge had previously given to the jury:
    Evidently the jurors were given a printed copy of these directions.

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