May 14, 2009
Times convicted of contempt of court
Newspaper and jury foreman found guilty of disclosing jury room deliberations
The publishers of The Times and the foreman of a jury who revealed to the newspaper how he disagreed with the verdict reached in a manslaughter case were both found guilty of contempt of court yesterday. Michael Seckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd now face a fine or prison sentence.
Mr Seckerson was a juror in the 2007 case of Keran Henderson, a childminder who was found guilty of the manslaughter of 11-month old Maeve Sheppard. Seckerson had been one of two jurors who dissented from the 10-2 majority verdict.
The case against Seckerson and the newspaper was brought by Attorney General Baroness Scotland under Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act, which bans disclosure of "votes cast, statements made, opinions expressed or arguments advanced" by members of a jury in their deliberations.
Lord Justice Pill and Mr Justice Sweeney in the High Court agreed that contempt laws had been broken. Lord Justice Pill accepted that the Times’s legal editor, Frances Gibb, had sought legal advice prior to publication, which was given in good faith by staff at the "highly reputable newspaper", and that the foreman had a genuine concern about the use made of expert medical evidence in criminal trials. However, he said the "robust and highly valued" jury system depended on the open and frank deliberations in secret, without any individual fearing that their potentially unpopular views might become public.
The newspaper and Mr Seckerson face sentencing next Friday, 22 May. The Times have indicated their intention to appeal against the ruling.
For the full 5RB.com case report, please click here.