I had intended to report HHJ Smith’s Summing Up, which he gave yesterday. It started in the hour before the court adjourned for lunch, and continued after a break. When it continued I really struggled to hear, I don’t know what had happened and on occasion the sound has been a little patchy throughout this hearing. I don’t know whether HHJ Smith had turned to face the jury more directly and was turned away from the microphone, or whether it was something else, but I was straining to hear. I took notes, and when I’ve revisited them today I don’t think that they’re sufficiently clear or thorough for me to be able to report accurately, so I’ve chosen to not report the summing up at all.
What I will report here are the final legal directions that HHJ Smith gave to the jury members within his summing up yesterday morning, and some given again today before he sent the jury out to deliberate. You can find two sets of earlier legal directions given to the jury here and here.
25 April 2023
The first direction that HHJ Smith gave to the jury was about good character. He told them that all defendants were of good character, and he wanted to give them a direction about that so that they can have it in mind when thinking about the evidence and case against each of the defendants.
HHJ Smith told the jury that they know something of the background of each defendant.
You know about their background, not just how they came to work at Whorlton Hall, critically you know each of them with the exception of Darren Lawton, will come to him, each can be described as being of good character.
HHJ Smith that was to say they had no previous convictions, they hadn’t been given formal police cautions, which was a telling off by a police officer for something they’d admitted doing. He told the jury that they had no police warnings or reprimands in the past.
Eight of the defendants are in that position. Darren Lawton is really no different. In his case he got some minor traffic infringements, date back to 1988, so because of their nature and their age, 25 years old those things. Because of all that, he’s what would be technically described as effective good character.
HHJ Smith told the jury that there was no distinction between effective good character and good character, they were just terms that lawyers use.
They’re all in the same boat.
How do you approach that fact for each of them separately?
Well obviously, just because defendant is of previous good character, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have committed the offence of which they’re charged, but their good character is something you should take into account in their favour in two separate ways.
HHJ Smith told the jury that the first way in which they should consider it was that each defendant had given evidence to them.
Should take their good character into account when deciding if you believe their evidence.
The second way, HHJ Smith, told the jury that they should take good character into account was the fact they hadn’t committed a previous offence.
May make it less likely they’ve committed the offence they’re charged with.
HHJ Smith told the jury to imagine there was a tenth defendant in the case, who had a previous conviction for ill-treatment. He told them the prosecution would say it was more likely they were guilty. He told them the direction he was giving them was the flip side of that, which he hoped was common sense.
Should take good character into account in their individual favour in the two ways described. It’s for you to decide what important you attach to that feature, which each of the defendants shares.
No Comment Answers
The second direction that HHJ Smith gave the jury yesterday related to no comment answers. He said that in some cases where the police had put questions to the defendants, in some cases their answers to some or all of the police questions in a particular interview were “no comment”.
HHJ Smith told the jury that they had behind Divider 5 the agreed summaries of each of the interviews held between the police and defendants.
There are occasions when you’ll see a defendant answering “no comment” to questions asked for them by the police.
Now there are some cases where such answers are, in certain circumstances, capable of amounting to some limited support for a prosecution case, but, this is not one of those cases.
HHJ Smith told the jury that there were a myriad good legal reasons why that wasn’t the case here.
My direction to you is you should not hold the fact that any defendant declined to answer any police question put to them in interview.
The fact, whether on the advice of a solicitor or otherwise, they answered no comment to questions put to them in interview is not something you should hold against a defendant in this case.
Put out of your mind whatever else you think about no comment interviews, that’s the approach you must take in this particular case.
HHJ Smith told the jury that applies to whenever they see that answer from a defendant. He told them that he wasn’t going to go through the interviews with the police because they had been gone through in court and they had agreed summaries in their jury bundle.
Know you’ll look at them with care during the course of your deliberations. Rehearsing what you’ve got in writing is of no real assistance for you.
Got direction on how you should approach them, that will form I’m sure, part of your deliberations.
26 April 2023
HHJ Smith brought the jury into court this morning and discussed one clarification following his summing up [given I’ve not reported the summing up, I’ll not report the clarification/thing that one of the counsel wanted stressed]. HHJ Smith told the jury that he had two new indexes for them, one for each of their bundles and a USB stick with the video footage on it.
HHJ Smith then told the jury that he wanted to give them three final bits of information, which he described as a sort of mixture of directions of law and guidance, before they start their deliberations. He said that they touched on the beginning, middle and end of their deliberations.
Nobody knows how long you’re going to be out, you mustn’t feel under any pressure of time.
You’ve been patient with us, is our turn now to be patient with you.
He then told them he’d like to offer them this guidance for their deliberations.
HHJ Smith said he had no reason to believe that they’d have already elected a foreperson, that was not usually done before the start of deliberations. He said that they may find it useful to understand a little about their task.
HHJ Smith told the jury that the foreperson has two important roles.
Delivering the verdicts, that’s the public speaking part at the end of your deliberations.
Don’t worry too much about that part of the role, it’s relatively easy. The foreman will have a note on the indictment of the verdicts you reached, is just a question of answering questions put to you by the Clerk of the court.
HHJ Smith told the jury that it was the other part of the job he wanted them to focus on when thinking of volunteering for the role, or thinking about who they were going to pick.
That person needs to chair your discussions. There are twelve of you. All different personalities. You may know a bit about each other given the length of the trial.
Some people are louder and more outspoken than others. I want to make sure that each of you have a fair input into your collection decision.
HHJ Smith told the jury those were the two parts that the foreperson needed to think about, delivering verdicts at the end, and chairing their discussions.
HHJ Smith told the jury that we don’t know how long they are going to be. He said that their may be breaks in between, he said it was rather likely at the very least a lunchbreak. He told them when it came to breaks in the middle or at the end of the day he’d need to have the jury back up to the courtroom, “to put a halt to your deliberations, to send you away with a reminder of the important warnings”. He reminded them that those were to not discuss outside their group, and not to conduct their own research.
HHJ Smith told them that when they returned from lunch they’d need to come back to the courtroom before they could start their deliberations.
Good reason for that. You have to be in the control, under the supervision, of a jury bailiff who has to take an oath.
HHJ Smith told them that when he sends them away for lunch, their role comes to an end, and they have to do it all over again when they return. He reminded the jury that there was good reason for them taking a break, stretching their legs and getting some fresh air, or if any of them were smokers leaving the building and the outside of it to have a cigarette or a vape.
HHJ Smith told them they could anticipate that it might be quite a tiring process as well.
HHJ Smith said he’d just touch on this. He reminded the jurors of the introductory video that they’d had played to them “all those weeks ago”. He told them that there was a bit in that about majority verdicts and they were to put that out of their minds.
Only verdicts can accept at this stage is one where all twelve of you are agreed.
Guilty or not guilty.
HHJ Smith told the jurors to put majority verdicts out of their mind, telling them if a time comes when he can accept them then he will have to give them another legal direction.
HHJ Smith asked them, with that in mind, once the jury bailiff had been sworn in, to collect up their things and in due course let us know how you get on.
HHJ Smith told them there are lots of counts and lots of evidence, and he was not anticipating verdicts any time soon. He told the jury that he’d have them back around 1pm to let them go to lunch.
The jury retired at 11:32 on Wednesday 26 April.
I’ll next report when they return to court with a verdict.