Juror spared prison after research of evidence caused trial to collapse

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A juror who caused a trial to collapse by conducting his own research into an alleged historical sex attack has been spared jail.

Teesside Crown Court heard Gary Henderson, 57, disclosed to fellow jurors he had driven past a lay-by where the attack was alleged to have been committed.

Gary Henderson, 57, leaves Teesside Crown Court where he was given a suspended sentence on Wednesday after admitting conducting independent research while sitting as a juror during a trial at the same court in November 2017.

Gary Henderson, 57, leaves Teesside Crown Court where he was given a suspended sentence on Wednesday after admitting conducting independent research while sitting as a juror during a trial at the same court in November 2017.

Prosecutors explained Henderson, of Walnut Grove, Redcar, North Yorkshire, had appeared to be "affected and troubled" by the content of the trial, which took place in November 2017.

A judge was told the defendant had driven past the lay-by tens of thousands of times over a 40-year period, and felt maps given to the jury did not accurately depict its size or its proximity to the main road.

But despite being warned about not doing independent research from the outset of the trial, he travelled past the lay-by again during the weekend break and disclosed what he saw to his fellow jurors.

Emma Atkinson, prosecuting, said: "Fellow jurors noted that the defendant often disconnected himself from the collective, and seemed to be a solitary figure."

She explained how Henderson seemed to be overly sympathetic towards the alleged victim, and was aggressive in his views about the case.

Having already admitted intentionally conducting research and sharing the information with fellow jurors, he was given a six-month sentence, suspended for 18 months.

On Wednesday, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC, sentencing, told Henderson: "A trial of seven days had to be aborted, with the jury being discharged, as a result of what you did.

"Witnesses who had gone through the trauma of giving evidence had to go through that again in a re-trial.

"All of that was brought on by you, Mr Henderson."

Ms Atkinson explained how the trial the defendant was a juror for had started on November 20, 2017.

She said a key element of the case, which was also held at Teesside Crown Court, was the size of the lay-by and whether it could be viewed from the main road.

The court heard how on November 25, 2017, Henderson drove past the lay-by, before then disclosing information about it to the jury on November 27.

As a result, the jury was discharged the next day and a re-trial was ordered.

The judge added the knowledge Henderson had of the lay-by had "come to the forefront of your mind, and maybe clouded your mind".

He said: "Being a juror is an important duty. It is a vital duty.

"As has been pointed out by the Court of Appeal, without juries, the criminal justice system would collapse.

"As a result, the duties of a jury are onerous, but they must be so."

Damian Sabino, defending, said Henderson was not aware he had flouted any rules by disclosing the information to fellow jurors.

He said that fact, coupled with the defendant's mental health issues and the complex needs of his son, meant a suspended sentence would be appropriate.