A solicitor has been jailed after she researched case details – and told fellow jury members what she’d learned – during a child sex abuse trial.
Caroline Mitchell, 53, of North Parade, York, broke the orders of Judge Simon Hickey and her juror’s oath, Leeds Crown Court heard.
The historic child sexual abuse case at York Crown Court in March 2021 had to be abandoned and the jury discharged at the cost of £30,000 – and a new trial scheduled.
Mitchell was jailed for two months, after pleading guilty to disclosing information to other jurors.
In the original trial, the defence and prosecution differed over whether the complainant had shared their bedroom with a sibling.
The jury was given a floor plan of the property but not the dimensions of the rooms, which could have changed since the 1970s when the abuse was alleged to have happened.
Jury members were told not to speculate about the size of the room.
Mitchell had later gone online to look at a property her partner was interested in and found details of a house neighbouring the one involved in the case, including dimensions of the rooms.
She took a screenshot and the next day the clerk of the court entered the jury room and witnessed Mitchell showing that screenshot to another juror and commenting on it.
Mitchell’s barrister told Leeds Crown Court she had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and had since been dismissed by her employers and faced action by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Sentencing her, Judge Guy Kearl QC, said he accepted Mitchell had shown “deep and clear remorse” and the sentence reflected her early guilty plea.
However, he said Mitchell had time to think about her actions before introducing evidence the defence and prosecution had “no knowledge of or ability to address”.
The judge said her actions had meant the trial had to be aborted, delaying the outcome and causing both the complainant and defendant to have to give evidence a second time.
He accepted she did not intend to undermine the course of justice. He said that she was a solicitor and someone used to obeying court orders as part of her daily life.
The judge said Mitchell should serve a total of four weeks in jail, with the remainder of her sentence on licence.