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A former Irwin Mitchell lawyer has been jailed for two months after she wrecked a child sexual abuse trial in which she was sitting as a juror.

Caroline Mitchell is no longer an employee of the personal injury firm, after she left voluntarily before she was sentenced.

Mitchell and her fellow jurors had been instructed by Judge Simon Hickey both in writing and orally not to conduct their own research. But Mitchell ignored him and broke her juror's oath in order to dig into the case on the web one evening, screenshotting information which she passed around the jury on her iPad the following day.

The 53-year-old's private investigation work meant the trial had to be abandoned, wasting £90,000, and the alleged victim and perpetrator had to wait eight months for a new trial, and had to give their evidence again.

Feeding the jurors what she'd googled risked the wrong verdict being returned, said Judge Guy Kearl QC at York Crown Court, and as a solicitor she knew "the importance of court orders and the consequences of breaching them", he said.

"This is simply a terrible day in the life of Caroline Mitchell", said her lawyer, according to the York Press, adding that the 27PQE associate may now be struck off.

"I don’t doubt you didn’t intend to undermine the course of justice, but that is the effect of what you were doing", said the judge, ruling that "Appropriate punishment can only be be found by an immediate custodial sentence".

Irwin Mitchell declined to comment, but noted that Mitchell (no relation) was acting as a juror in a personal capacity, and that the firm had nothing to do with the case.

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Comments

Well Deserved 06 May 22 11:33

No justification for her conduct and she should definitely be struck off.

However I look forward to the usual "oh but she was stressed / tired / melancholy / peckish and somebody was mean to her in 1994" drivel from the excuse brigade.

unknown rider 06 May 22 11:37

SRA will strike her off, award themselves £100k in costs. Trebles all round. 

other perspective 06 May 22 13:22

She is a complete fool and will get what she deserves.

However jury trials (which go right back to 1215 and Magna Carta) were trials of an accused by the accused's peers - i.e. people who knew them in the local community.  So they would presumably take character into account and what they knew of the accused in reaching a decision.

It seems to me in an internet online age that looking into the background of the accused is only going back to that - making a decision based on all the facts not just the ones presented to the court.  If I was on a jury whilst of course I would never say anything to other jurors I would certainly research the accused especially if it was for as serious a charge as child sex abuse.

If they had previous convictions then that of course would have a bearing on my likely verdict.  As it did the jurors going back centuries who were making decisions based on character.  It may not be determinitive but it would be something I'd weigh up in making a decision.

Having done criminal law albeit many years ago the bias in favour of defendant's in terms of rules of evidence is such that I know the evidence given to a jury may not always be all the evidence you would want to decide a case.

It will become a none issue as jury trials are being gradually eroded but the Contempt of Court Act is 41 years old, it comes from a different time and I do not accept the premise juries trying to find out more about the case they are trying and get all the facts is necessarily a bad thing at all - rather it may help them make a decision.  
 

Of course a lot of what is on the internet is rubbish, I accept that as well so it's not easy, but equally in terms of evidential rules many do not mean relevant information as to likely guilt are given to jurors.

Anon 06 May 22 14:05

For my sins I worked at IM many years ago and she was a genuinely lovely person who no-one had a bad word to say about, and that says a lot in that place.

That said there’s obviously no excuse for what she did and the consequences from the Judge (and no doubt the SRA soon) will be justified.

What a shame all round.

lawbore 06 May 22 14:28

@ other perspective

The tension in this frankly worrying post is between "jurors back in the virtuous past used to lock them up if they were a wrong'un" then complaining that the CCA is out of date because it was issued in 1981. 

PeacefulCleric 06 May 22 15:07

"a lot of what is on the internet is rubbish"

Ironically, I'd wager that most of were thinking that exact thing as we reached that point of your tract.

Anon 06 May 22 15:09

What an absolute fool.  I have no doubt that on multi day cases a good percentage of jurors will have a sneaky Google when they get home.  That's unlikely to get you some jail time.  Bringing the fruits of your labours in to show the other?  The profession is better of without someone who is not only willing to egregiously breach the rules but also then come into court and provide the evidence of that breach.  I despair.

Cost of living 07 May 22 08:39

Did she get £900 from IM before she was incarcerated?  Bearing in mind the free food, accommodation and waiver of council tax whilst in jail, it would only be fair to deduct 20% following the twisted logic of SH. 

Anon 07 May 22 18:36

Maybe IM was right in having a manager for every 2 people ? Look what happens when they go out on their own ! 

Anonymous Anonymous 09 May 22 22:41

The solicitor knows the law and the implications of what she did. Only maybe struck off?

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