A recent article in The Independent discusses the privacy of the jury room in England and Wales. Unlike in the USA, jurors are not allowed to say what went on in the jury room, even after the trial has ended. Section 8 of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act forbids research into how juries decided.
There was a borderline case a few years ago when the jury were in a hotel and used a Ouija board to try to communicate with the murder victim. Somehow this became known and the case had to be reheard.
The article recounts a case last summer when Richard Latham, QC, prosecuting, was handed a note from a woman juror saying, ‘What does a lady need to do to attract your attention?’
Appeals criticizing what went on in the jury deliberations are very restricted.
bq. [An appeal] involved an allegation that there was racial bias among jurors who convicted a man of indecent assault. Shabbir ali Mirza, a chef from east London, was jailed for four years after his conviction, by a majority verdict, in February 2001. After the trial, a juror wrote to his barrister alleging bias on the part of members of the jury. This woman, a nurse, claimed that fellow jurors had accused the defendant of being “devious” for using an interpreter when they thought he could understand English. When she objected she claimed that she was “shouted down” by “bigots”.
This sounds bad, although we can’t exclude the possibility that the defendant was being devious. Interpreters are sometimes used to buy time in international company negotiations: while the interpreter is speaking, the party ‘relying’ on the interpreter has time to consider how to react.
In this case, the appeal was dismissed, but the matter is being taken to the European Court of Rights.