Judgments - Regina v. Connor and another (Appellants) (On Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division))
Regina v. Mirza (Appellant) (On Appeal from the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division)) (Conjoined Appeals)

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    20.  I would hold that under article 6(1) the question I posed in the first paragraph of this opinion ought to be answered by saying that in such exceptional circumstances the evidence may be admitted.

    The consequences for the jury system.

    21.  As I have already made clear I regard the jury system, albeit that it is involved in only 1% of criminal cases, as a most valuable part of our criminal justice system. The principle that I have favoured will not damage the jury system and will enhance the moral authority of trial by judge and jury.

    22.  The effect of the ruling of the majority will in the long run damage the jury system. Leaving aside the jury, we have reached a position where it is recognised that all actors in the criminal justice system, and notably the judge, prosecuting counsel, defence counsel, police, expert witnesses, as well as lay witnesses, can be the cause of miscarriages of justice. Every effort is made to reduce this risk and to expose miscarriages of justice. But the consequence of the ruling of the majority is that a major actor, the jury, is immune from such scrutiny on the basis that such immunity is a price worth paying. This restrictive view will gnaw at public confidence in juries. It is likely in the long run to increase pressure for reducing the scope of trial by jury. A system which forfeits its moral authority is not likely to survive intact. The question will be whether such a system provides a better quality of justice than trial by professionals.

Evidential difficulties

    23.  I have taken into account the judgments of the majority, and particularly the comprehensive judgment of Lord Hope of Craighead. I am not persuaded. The only point on which I need to comment is the observation of Lord Hope in paragraphs 117-119 of his opinion on evidential difficulties. For my part such difficulties - a perennial problem for appellate courts dealing with irregularities at trial - cannot justify overlooking a real risk of a miscarriage where the context justifies such a view. In any event, in cases involving extrinsic influences on jury deliberations the Court of Appeal has to grapple with such difficulties. Where appropriate it has power to conduct an inquiry. A good illustration is R v Young (Stephen) [1995] QB 324 where some jurors in their hotel room conducted a session with an ouija board and purported to consult a deceased. Lord Taylor of Gosforth CJ explained the inquiry conducted by the Court of Appeal as follows, at p 332B-D:

    "We concluded having heard all the arguments that we were entitled to inquire into what happened at the hotel but not as to what happened thereafter in the jury room. Accordingly we ordered that affidavits should be taken from each of the 12 jurors and from the two bailiffs looking after them at the hotel. We asked the Treasury Solicitor to take charge of the inquiry in conjunction with a senior police officer of at least the rank of chief inspector. We required the affidavits to cover what if anything happened at the hotel, but not to breach section 8 of the Act of 1981 by trespassing on what happened during the jury's deliberations in their retiring room. In the result, we obtained affidavits from all 12 jurors and from the two bailiffs. The affidavits were provided to the parties although the names of the jurors (save for the four who were alleged to have been involved with the ouija board at the hotel) were not disclosed, numbers being substituted instead. We also received an affidavit from the appellant's solicitor describing how the matter raised on the appeal come to his attention."

If the ouija board had been used in the jury room, it is conceded by the Crown that the case would fall within the exception. A similar inquiry could then have been undertaken about the use of the ouija board in the jury room. As Professor Spencer emphasised in the note cited at paragraph 12 above: "The fact that many allegations of this sort are false cannot justify ignoring all of them because, as Young so painfully reminds us, some of them regrettably are true". There are also other illustrations of inquiries about extrinsic matters: Ras Behari Lal v King-Emperor 50 TLR 1 (about whether a juror could understand English) and R v Hood [1968] 1 WLR 773 (an affidavit about juror's knowledge of previous convictions). For my part the evidential difficulties postulated do not warrant the conclusion drawn by Lord Hope.

Lord Justice Auld's recommendation

    24.  In 2001 Lord Justice Auld recommended that legislation should be introduced, inter alia, to permit enquiry "into alleged impropriety by a jury, whether in the course of its deliberations or otherwise"; Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales, Report of October 2001, para 98. My view is, of course, that such a jurisdiction already exists. But I am in a minority of one. For my part, therefore, the importance and urgency of the recommendation cannot be overstated. There is comfort in the fact that on 11 September 2003 the Lord Chancellor indicated in a written answer in the House of Lords that he would publish a consultation paper which will also deal with Lord Justice Auld's recommendation (Hansard (HL Debates), col WA 135). It is perhaps too optimistic to hope that the very real problem can be solved by legislation before the matter goes to Strasbourg.

The subsidiary question

    25.  Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 reads as follows:

    "(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, it is a contempt of court to obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations in any legal proceedings.

    (2) This section does not apply to any disclosure of any particulars -

    "(a)  in the proceedings in question for the purpose of enabling the jury to arrive at their verdict, or in connection with the delivery of that verdict, or

    (b)  in evidence in any subsequent proceedings for an offence alleged to have been committed in relation to the jury in the first mentioned proceedings,

    or to the publication of any particulars so disclosed.

    (3) Proceedings for a contempt of court under this section (other than Scottish proceedings) shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Attorney General or on the motion of a court having jurisdiction to deal with it."

The certified question regarding section 8 was as follows:

    "Does section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, when interpreted in the light of section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and article 6 of the European Convention, prohibit the admission into evidence of a statement from a juror which if admitted, would provide prima facie evidence of partiality in breach of article 6? If [so], is section 8 incompatible with article 6 to the extent that it prohibits the admission into evidence of such a statement?"

During oral argument it was, however, common ground that it is not necessary to resort to the interpretative obligation under section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998. The reason is simple: the notion that the Court of Appeal could be in contempt of itself if it exercised the jurisdiction to hear evidence about what happened in the jury room is an absurdity. Properly construed, on ordinary principles of construction, section 8 does not impinge on the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal to receive evidence which it regards as relevant to the disposal of an appeal. I understand this to be an agreed position between counsel. But I would, in any event, rule accordingly. Section 8 is therefore not an impediment to a consideration of the appeals before the House on their legal merits. If it had been such an impediment, it would in my view have been an appropriate case for reading down the statute under section 3. Moreover, if the issue were to arise whether a juror who reported an irregularity during jury deliberations to the Court of Appeal would commit an offence by so doing, an appropriate reading down of the statute might become necessary.

The Mirza appeal

    26.  I can take the matter relatively shortly. The appellant is a Pakistani who settled in England in 1988. He was a man of good character. He was charged with six courts of indecent assault, being specimen charges reflecting alleged sexual abuse of his step-daughter. He was convicted by the jury by a majority of 10:2 and sentenced to four years imprisonment, subsequently reduced on appeal to three years. This was upon a retrial after an earlier jury had failed to agree.

    27.  Since English was not his first language he used an interpreter. The jury found this suspicious and on two occasions sent notes to the judge about the matter. Counsel for the Crown told the jury to draw no adverse inference against the accused. In this summing up the judge directed the jury that they must draw no adverse inference against the accused.

    28.  Six days after the verdict a juror wrote a letter to counsel for the appellant. It was a lengthy letter. An agreed summary reads as follows:

    "From the beginning of the trial, there was a theory, among some of the jury, that the use of an interpreter was in some way a devious ploy. The writer of the letter was not able to convince anyone that she knew from her experience that there was nothing suspicious about the use of an interpreter. The writer of the letter claimed to be the only juror with any insight into the defendant's culture which others on the jury regarded with undue suspicion. The question of the interpreter was raised early during the jury's deliberations and the letter writer claimed that she was shouted down when she objected to this and sought to remind the other members of the jury that there was an admission to the effect that the interpreter was not a matter which should count adversely against the defendant."

In a careful and measured speech counsel for the appellant submitted to the House that, stripped of its emotive content, the letter suggests that the jury disregarded the direction of the judge; attached undue significance to the idea that the appellant did not need an interpreter; described an admonition not to attach importance to the use of an interpreter as "playing the race card"; and were influenced by racial prejudice. In my view there are substantial grounds for concluding that the jury reached their verdict on perverse grounds which included a pronounced racial element.

    29.  In these circumstances I would allow this appeal and quash the conviction of the appellant Mirza.

The appeal of Connor and Rollock

    30.  The appellants Connor and Rollock faced a joint charge of wounding. They were both convicted by a majority verdict of 10:2. Again, there is a letter from a juror about the course of the deliberations of the jury. It raised matters which could not possibly support a ground of appeal. The only part of the letter which requires consideration reads as follows:

    "The most worrying was that although many thought it could be one defendant or another they would give the guilty verdict to both, because as many of them said this would teach them a lesson, things in this life were not fair and sometimes innocent people would have to pay the price. Also as the defendants were young, the sentence would not be too severe.

    When I raised objections to this, and said we must then look at whether it was one or the other, they maintained their guilty stance, and said that we could be here for another week. I said better that, than convict an innocent man, but then it developed into bedlam, and the majority guilty verdict was agreed."

Counsel for the appellants Connor and Rollock concentrated his submissions on the first quoted paragraph.

    31.  From the rest of the letter it is clear that there was some irritation among the jury about the length of the jury deliberations. After a six day trial the course of events is summarised in the agreed statement of facts and issues as follows:

    "The jury retired for four hours and forty-six minutes prior to being given the majority direction. After another two hours they returned to give their verdicts. Initially they found Ashley Rollock not guilty whereupon there was a disturbance amongst them and the learned judge asked them to retire to again discuss their verdicts. The jury returned within four minutes and found both defendants guilty by a majority of 10:2."

It is not unusual for disagreements about the length of discussions to arise.

    32.  Turning to the complaint of the juror, one must take into account that there is a strong presumption that the jury was impartial. The juror raised no complaints before verdict. She appeared to have been generally dissatisfied with the views of the majority. I am not persuaded that her account can be accepted as factually entirely accurate. It may to some extent be the exaggerated protest of a disgruntled juror. Certainly I am not prepared to conclude that there was a real risk of bias on the part of the jury. The presumption has not been displaced.

    33.  I would dismiss this appeal.

LORD SLYNN OF HADLEY

My Lords,

    34.  In these two appeals the defendants were convicted of serious offences—Mirza of indecent assault, Connor and Rollock of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. They were given custodial sentences. The Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals against conviction but reduced the sentence of Mirza from four years to three years six months concurrent in respect of counts 1 to 5, that sentence to be concurrent with a sentence of three years in respect of count 6.

    35.  Two important questions were raised in the Court of Appeal as to matters which it is alleged occurred in the jury room and which it is said require that the convictions be set aside. The Court of Appeal refused to admit evidence of these matters, holding itself bound to follow the decision of the Court of Appeal in R v Qureshi [2001] EWCA 1807; [2002] 1 WLR 518 itself a decision based on a long line of authority.

    36.  In Mirza the accused came to the United Kingdom from Pakistan in 1988 so that he had been living here for some 13 years. He asked for, and was provided with, an interpreter. Before the defence case was opened the jury sent a note to the judge asking "The jury would like to know. What year did the defendant come to this country. How old is the defendant. What is his job at the restaurant." But after the accused had given evidence the jury sent another note. "Questions for the interpreter—In your experience as a Court interpreter would it be typical for a man of the defendant's background to require your services, despite living in this country as long as he has? How long have you held the position of Court interpreter?"

    37.  Counsel for the Prosecution and for the Defence agreed that in complex and serious cases it was usual for people who are not fluent in English to ask for an interpreter. Prosecuting Counsel told the jury to make full allowances for the accused's linguistic difficulties and the Judge in his summing up clearly emphasised that even if a foreigner spoke some English he might not be fluent or confident enough in court proceedings so that "you should draw no adverse inferences from the defendant exercising his right to have an interpreter".

    38.  Six days after the conviction, on 26 February 2001, the appellant's counsel received a letter from a juror which was summarised in these terms:

    "From the beginning of the trial, there was a theory, among some of the jury, that the use of an interpreter was in some way a devious ploy. The writer of the letter was not able to convince anyone that she knew from her experience that there was nothing suspicious about the use of an interpreter. The writer of the letter claimed to be the only juror with any insight into the defendant's culture which others on the jury regarded with undue suspicion. The question of the interpreter was raised early during the jury's deliberations and the letter writer claimed that she was shouted down when she objected to this and sought to remind the other members of the jury that there was an admission to the effect that the interpreter was not a matter which should count adversely against the defendant".

    39.  In R v Connor and Rollock the foreman of the jury first said that the jury had found Rollock not guilty. That produced a reaction from the jury and after returning for a few minutes he announced that the decision was guilty. The first was obviously a slip which was corrected and in my view nothing turns on that in this appeal. On 15 August 2001 when the case was listed for sentence the Judge told Counsel of a letter dated 30 July 2001 which he had received from a juror. He did not record the contents of the letter but sent the letter in a sealed envelope to the Court of Appeal. It now transpires that the letter set out the juror's anxiety about the conduct of the deliberation viz:

    "There was an overall feeling that most of the people were looking for a quick verdict ie they did not want to be there until the end of the week or longer.

    One of the Jurors had made references to other people that had been in the Press recently and when challenged about this, gave their verdict and then refused to participate anymore, doodling and reading a paper.

    There was talk of trying to reach a verdict by the tossing of a coin, this was quickly given short shrift.

    The most worrying was that although many thought it could be one defendant or another they would give the guilty verdict to both, because as many of them said this would teach them a lesson, things in this life were not fair and sometimes innocent people would have to pay the price.

    Also as the defendants were young, the sentence would not be too severe.

    When I raised objections to this, and said we must then look at whether it was one or the other, they maintained their guilty stance, and said that we could be here for another week. I said better that, than convict an innocent man, but then it developed into bedlam, and the majority guilty verdict was agreed"

    40.  The facts of the two cases are thus of course different but the central issues of law are the same. Those issues are encapsulated in the two questions certified by the Court of Appeal, namely:

    "Should the common law prohibition on the admission of evidence of the jury's deliberations prevail even if the Court of Appeal is presented with a statement from the juror, which, if admitted, would provide prima facie evidence of jury partiality in breach of Article 6?

    Does section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, when interpreted in the light of section 3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Article 6 of the European Convention, prohibit the admission into evidence of a statement from a juror which if admitted, would provide prima facie evidence of partiality in breach of Article 6? If [so], is section 8 incompatible with Article 6 to the extent that it prohibits the admission into evidence of such a statement?".

    41.  As to the first question, the basic rule as recognised in Qureshi is long-established. Thus in Vaise v Delaval (1785) 1 TR11, where Lord Mansfield said that the court cannot receive an affidavit from a juror as to the nature of the juror's deliberations. In Ellis v Deheer [1922] 2 KB 113, Bankes LJ said at pp 117-118 "I desire to make it clear that the court will never admit evidence from jurymen of the discussion which they may have had between themselves when considering their verdict or of the reasons for their decision, whether the discussion took place in the jury room after retirement or in the jury box itself". In R v Miah [1997] 2 Cr App R 12 the court cited apparently with approval a statement by Darley CJ in R v Andrew Brown (1907) 7 NSWSR 290 at p 299 viz:

    "I have come to the conclusion that the authorities are all one way, and that the Court cannot look at the affidavits of jurymen for any purpose, whether it be for the purpose of granting a new trial, or for the purpose of establishing the misconduct of a juryman".

    Thus, the prohibition on receipt of evidence takes effect from the moment the jury is empanelled and covers not only what took place in the jury box or the jury room but covers any statement as to what the jury believed the attitude of other jurors to be as deduced from their behaviour in the box or as to what the juror thought the effect of the verdict to be. Once the verdict is given in the presence of all the other jurors then that is the end of the matter and the Court of Appeal will not inquire as to whether the verdict truly reflects what the jurors thought.

    42.  These cases are all reflecting the view of the domestic courts but it is significant to notice that in eg Gregory v United Kingdom 25 EHRR 577, the European Court of Human Rights said, at p 594, para 4:

    "that the Court acknowledges that the rule governing the secrecy of jury deliberations is a crucial and legitimate feature of English trial law which serves to reinforce the jury's role as the ultimate arbiter of fact and to guarantee open and frank deliberations among jurors on the evidence which they have heard." (Emphasis added).

    43.  Although the rule is stated positively, from time to time exceptions to the rule or qualifications of the rule have been recognised. A good illustration of this is to be found in Harvey v Hewitt (1840) 8 Dowl 598, where Coleridge J said in a case in which it was alleged, on information provided by an affidavit from the jury bailiff and persons in an adjoining room, that the jurors had arrived at their verdict by drawing lots:

    "No doubt . . . that we cannot take the affidavit of a juryman stating his own misconduct, or that of his brother jurymen . . . The affidavits here produced, however, are not made by the jurors themselves . . . but they are the affidavits of persons who witnessed the transaction itself, of agreeing to draw lots, and drawing lots".

    In R v Brandon (1969) 53 Cr App R 466, on the other hand the evidence was that a jury bailiff had told the jury of the accused's previous convictions. This was held to be a grave irregularity and the conviction accordingly was quashed.

    44.  In Ras Behari Lal v King-Emperor (1933) 50 TLR 1, it was accepted that evidence might be given that a juryman had not understood English, the language in which the case had principally been conducted. It was held on appeal that the conviction must be set aside on the ground that the effect of the jury's inability to understand the language was to deny the accused persons an essential part of the protection afforded to them by law, and that the result of the trial was a miscarriage of justice.

    45.  In R v Young (Stephen) [1995] QB 324, evidence was given that the jurors had consulted a ouija board in their hotel in order to arrive at a decision. This evidence was held to be admissible. In the Canadian case of Sawyer v R [2001] 2 SCC 344, a distinction was drawn between the admission of intrinsic evidence (which was not admissible) and extrinsic evidence (which was) as eg where there was evidence of pressure on or corruption by an outsider of a member or members of the jury. Such evidence may have to be admitted regardless of the person actually giving the evidence but it is clear that it is not always easy to draw the distinction in what is extrinsic and what is intrinsic.

    46.  I cite these only as a very small number of cases illustrating that some modifications of the rule have been accepted. On the other hand it seems clear that although the courts' approach may have to be flexible in order to admit evidence where justice requires it (R v Zacharias (1987) 39 CCC (3d) 280), the basic rule has been followed that the court should not receive evidence as to what happens in the jury room or in the jury box. On the fringe there may be difficult cases and exceptions but the rule has been strictly followed in relation to communications between the jurors.

    47.  How far this rule is justified has been examined in a number of cases. The courts have indicated a number of considerations to show that it is justified. Thus the need to encourage jurors to speak frankly without fear of being quoted or criticised has been very much relied on. Jurors need to be protected from pressures to explain their reasons and it is important to avoid an examination of conflicting accounts by different jurors as to what occurred during the deliberation. It has also been said on a number of occasions that the need for finality once a verdict has been given justifies the rule being applied strictly. On the other hand it has to be observed that in the Canadian Supreme Court case of Sawyer (supra) finality was thought to be an unsatisfactory basis for the rule. On the other hand it seems plain that discussion and disagreement in public as to what happened in the jury room is likely to undermine public confidence in the jury system (R v Armstrong [1922] 2 KB 555, at p 568.

    48.  Even if there may be limited exceptions, experience has led the courts to conclude that it is important that there should be a basic rule and that it is not appropriate that every case should be looked at individually in order to see whether it can be sufficiently said that there has been a breach of the obligation to preserve the confidentiality of jury deliberations.

    49.  It is apparent that from time to time jurors may be influenced by what is said or done to them—maybe they will even be bribed—outside the court room or in the jury room. It is also apparent that from time to time jurors may show in the course of the trial, or their deliberations, that they have been influenced by strongly held views which result in prejudice or bias which override their obligation to listen and decide impartially. The result in either case might be seen as an unjust decision by the jury.

    50.  If there were no way of dealing with such allegations the courts' procedures would be seriously defective; this is so regardless of the provisions of the Human Rights Convention but reinforced by it. There are, however, as has been submitted to the House, safeguards which should prevent such a result happening. In the first place there is random selection of a jury even if it may not be as efficient as the elaborate voire dire employed in the American system. The judge himself gives directions to the jury as to how they should deal with interference or improper behaviour. The verdict is declared in public in the presence of all the jurors so it can be said that, if they do not object at that stage, this should be taken as the verdict of them all to which they assent. Moreover it is obvious that if something is alleged to have gone wrong the Court of Appeal can check whether there has been sufficient evidence to justify the verdict or whether fresh evidence is available to justify the Court of Appeal in setting aside the verdict. It is obvious that jurors come to the jury box with a background of ideas and social and educational influence which may affect what they do and it is quite impossible to assume that either they or even judges can be utterly devoid of the influence of outside ideas. By allowing jurors to raise allegations of outside interference or overt bias or improper behaviour in the deliberations, the judge can ensure that the jury system has worked as it should.

 
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