Court of Appeal Upholds Decision to Continue Trial Without Jury After Jury Tampering

Citation: [2024] EWCA Crim 34
Judgment on

Introduction

In the case of Shahid Mohammad v Palvaan Islaam (EWCA Criminal 2024, [2024] EWCA Crim 34), the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) elucidated on the principles concerning the discontinuation of a jury trial due to jury tampering and the subsequent decision to continue the trial without a jury, according to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (the 2003 Act). The ruling provides a comprehensive assessment of the pertinent legal standards applied when a trial faces the issue of jury tampering and reflects the court’s determination to preserve the integrity of the judicial process while ensuring the fairness of the trial.

Key Facts

The appellants challenged the decision to continue the trial without a jury after incidents of jury tampering came to light during the existing trial. On the fourth day of jury deliberation, it was reported that a juror had been approached to influence the verdict. As a result, the Judge discharged the jury and ordered the continuation of the trial without a jury under section 46 of the 2003 Act, which was contested by the appellants.

The Court of Appeal’s analysis of the legal principles at play draws from the following key considerations under the Criminal Justice Act 2003:

  1. Section 46 - Discharge of jury because of jury tampering: Lays out the conditions under which a judge may discharge a jury and continue the trial without a jury.

  2. Section 47 - Appeals: Provides the mechanism for appealing the judge’s order to continue the trial without a jury.

  3. Fairness to Defendants: The judge must be satisfied to the criminal standard that the continuation without a jury would be fair to the defendants.

  4. Interest of Justice: The judge must assess whether it is necessary in the interest of justice to terminate the trial due to jury tampering.

The court reiterated principles from pertinent cases such as R v Twomey (2009), R v McManaman (2016), and R v Guthrie (2011), highlighting the importance of discouraging jury tampering, the inconvenience and expense of a retrial, and the capacity of judges to assess credibility and evidence as a jury would. It was noted that, generally, if jury tampering has indeed taken place, the trial should continue under a judge, barring unusual circumstances.

Responsibility for jury tampering (whether or not the defendants were involved) was deemed irrelevant to the decision, as the protection of the jury’s integrity is of primary concern. Furthermore, when concluding whether a judge should proceed with a non-jury trial, personal involvement in the previous trial is generally insufficient to raise a perception of bias unless there are strong indications to the contrary.

Outcomes

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals and upheld the decision to continue the trial without a jury, confirming that the Judge at the first instance correctly applied the legal principles. The Court of Appeal stated that the trial could continue fairly without a jury and that the interests of justice did not require the trial to be terminated, given the age of the alleged offences, reliance on witnesses’ memories, and the likelihood of significant delay before a retrial.

Conclusion

The decision in Shahid Mohammad v Palvaan Islaam reaffirms judicial commitment to the fair administration of justice in the face of challenges such as jury tampering. It demonstrates the court’s balanced approach to safeguarding the defendants’ rights to a fair trial while not rewarding or incentivizing jury tampering. The judgment consolidates existing legal principles, reinforcing the importance of trial continuity in the interest of justice and clarifying when and how a judge may proceed to deliver verdicts without a jury.

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