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Former Nottingham jury members sentenced for ‘research’ causing collapse of £1.4 million trial

Four former jurors serving on a serious trial at Nottingham Crown Court have been sentenced for looking up details of their case outside of the courtroom and causing the collapse of a trial.

Four jurors who conducted their own research online while sitting on a conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to possess firearms trial have been sentenced.

Tina Denning, Ann-Marie Fletcher, Sharon Doughty, and Jamie Lowe all used their mobile phones to carry out searches on the Internet regarding defendants charged and standing trial in relation to two shootings in Nottinghamshire.

The first of these happened on the evening of 2 October 2018 when multiple shots were fired through the window of a house in Upper Langwith.

The second took place on 3 November 2018 when a young woman was hit in the arm when a gunman riding a moped fired five shots toward the Das Kino bar in Fletcher Gate, Nottingham city centre.

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Eight people were charged with a number of offences connected to both incidents – resulting in a long-running trial held at Nottingham Crown Court at the end of 2019 and into the start of 2020.

Immediately after the jury was sworn in, on 2 October 2019, members were warned they should no carry out their own research on any aspect of the case, including by making any Internet searches.

They were warned that doing so would be a criminal offence and they were also provided with leaflets, reinforcing the judge’s directions and setting out their duties and responsibilities.

Further warnings regarding these prohibitions were given as the trial progressed.

The jury retired to consider verdicts, regarding six of the defendants, on 12 February 2020.

It was during retirement that concerns about certain jury members’ conduct came to light.

It was reported some had been undertaking their own research on aspects of the case and had, in some cases, shared that research with other jurors.

This disclosure caused the discharge of the jury part way through deliberations, on 10 March 2020, with verdicts still outstanding on four of the defendants. The other two were acquitted by the jury Immediately prior to their discharge.

Due to the misconduct of the four jurors – Denning, Fletcher, Doughty, and Lowe – a retrial was needed.

The cost of the abandoned first trial was estimated to have been more than £1.4 million to the public purse.

Investigation of mobile phones revealed Denning, Fletcher, Doughty, and Lowe had each used their devices to undertake their own online research relating to the case.

They were subsequently interviewed and charged with offences, contrary to the Juries Act 1974.

The investigation into the jury members’ misconduct was carried out by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) Major Crime Leicester Hub.

Fletcher, aged 41, pleaded guilty to four counts of researching the case during the trial period.

She was given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 120 hours’ unpaid work.

Doughty, aged 51, pleaded guilty to two counts of researching the case during the trial period and a further charge of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.

She was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 120 hours’ unpaid work.

Lowe, aged 27, went on to plead guilty to four counts of researching the case during the trial period.

He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 80 hours’ unpaid work.

Denning, aged 50, pleaded guilty to one count of researching the case during the trial period and a second count of intentionally disclosing information to other jury members during the trial period.

She was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and must complete 80 hours’ unpaid work.

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Sinski, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), said: “Not only did this offending result in a significant monetary wastage to the public purse, but the collapse of the trial caused witnesses to have to go through the traumatic experience of giving their evidence again at a re-trial, as well as causing delay to the resolution of the case.

“These four jurors were well aware that they should not have been engaging in their own research into aspects of this case.

“Any action which interferes with the administration of justice is a serious breach and I hope the sentences imposed sends a warning to other jurors about their essential responsibilities.”

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