Is a conviction unsafe if members of the jury have personally experienced the crime in question? This issue was recently considered by the Court of Appeal. Our criminal defence solicitors explain what happened.

The facts of the case

In this case, the defendant was being tried for offences relating to sexual assault. While the jury was deliberating its verdict, a note was sent to the judge which read:

“There is a concern from a member of the jury that two other members of the jury have close personal experience of sexual assault and rape – and whether this has influenced their verdict. Is this a concern?”

The defence requested that based on this disclosure, the entire jury should be discharged. The prosecution said this was inappropriate. Instead, the prosecution said the jury should be directed to decide the case on the evidence only.

The trial judge agreed with the prosecution. The jury was not discharged and the defendant was found guilty.

The defence then referred the case to the Court of Appeal on the basis that the conviction was unsafe. The inference was that two members of the jury had been biased by their personal experience of sexual assault and rape, and this could have impacted the eventual outcome.

What did the Court of Appeal decide?

The Court of Appeal rejected the appeal, meaning the conviction was upheld.

In this instance, the Court of Appeal decided that the note did not make any direct assertion of bias. Also, it did not provide evidence that the jurors were not staying true to their oaths.

The court therefore ruled that: “In our view the facts as presented to the judge did not require him to discharge the entire jury.”

Can a juror be removed for bias?

A jury must be selected before the trial begins. During jury selection, either side can challenge a prospective juror on the grounds of bias. This usually occurs because the jury member has expressed hostility to one side, or is in some way connected to either the defence or prosecution. Someone can also be excluded if they would be unsuitable for jury service – for example, because they are illiterate.

Once a trial is underway, judges are reluctant to discharge a jury and will only accept an application if there are strong grounds to do so. This might include if a serious error has been made.

Find out more: When Will a Jury Be Discharged?

Contact us now

Do you need a criminal defence lawyer? Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

You can also email us on or complete our Free Online Enquiry Form and we will contact you.