Juror jailed for contempt of Court

26 December 2013

A jury member who was found to have disclosed details of a jury's deliberations to a Defendant during their Crown Court criminal trial, has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment.

Stephen Pardon, 42, was a serving juror on a case relating to a multi-million pound theft of metal, which was taking place at Wolverhampton Crown Court in 2011.

Mr Pardon appeared before the High Court and admitted a charge of contempt of Court and the Court imposed a sentence of 4 months imprisonment.

It was explained to the Court by the representative of the Attorney General bringing the contempt proceedings that the jury had retired to deliberate after a 13 week trial, considering two charges of conspiracy to steal.  After the jury had returned a majority verdict on one of the charges, Mr Pardon had visited one of the Defendants at his work place – a Defendant who had been convicted of the first charge – and "made a number of disclosures including the reasons for the verdict and the material that the jury had considered".  In England and Wales the deliberations of the jury should remain entirely secret and should never be disclosed.  The Defendant informed his legal advisors of the information provided to him by Mr Pardon. 

The trial Judge was informed of Mr Pardon's actions, but took no action at the time as he wished to see whether or not the jury was able to reach a verdict on the remaining outstanding charge.  The jury were subsequently discharged when a verdict could not be reached.  Mr Pardon then later went to the work premises of a second Defendant – again already convicted – "to convey his concerns about the verdict", but he was asked to leave the premises by that Defendant.

On Mr Pardon's behalf, Jonathon Challinor told the Court "it was right Mr Pardon disobeyed a clear and unambiguous direction from the trial Judge".  However, Mr Challinor went on to say that Mr Pardon had been concerned by the 'propriety of the verdict' and had acted in good faith. 

Lord Judge in sentencing Mr Pardon, made it clear how seriously the Courts consider these offences, which the Court considers to be offences which serve "to undermine our system of trial by jury".  The Judge said "in these circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is virtually inevitable".  However, the Judge did take into account his 'immediate acknowledgement of his guilt' and genuine remorse.   

All three Defendants convicted by the jury in relation to the first charge have begun proceedings to appeal their convictions.  The Attorney General, pointed out, the 'serious consequences' that had flowed from Mr Pardon's actions and now lead to the appeal proceedings instituted by the three convicted Defendants.

In every trial in England and Wales a Judge gives specific directions to a jury, as to what conduct is expected of them, this guidance being given usually both at the start of the trial, but emphasised during the Judge's summing up to the jury after all the evidence has been heard.  Whilst Mr Pardon may have acted with a very genuine concern, he took the wrong action.