A jury hearing a case of an alleged ‘cash for crash’ plot in which an innocent Leeds pensioner was killed has been discharged after jurors were offered bribes.
A judge today took the unusual decision of dismissing the jury panel at Leeds Crown Court and will continue to try the case sitting alone.
The decision was made after the court heard jurors were filmed when the building was evacuated after a fire alarm was deliberately activated.
The court was also told some members of the jury had been approached as they left the court building and were offered sums of up to £500 in cash.
Mr Justice Goss said there had been a series of events which demonstrated “concerted attempts” to tamper with jurors.
The judge will now take advantage of seldom-used powers under section 46 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which allow him to continue to hear the case without a jury.
During the trial, the jury heard Betty Laird, 88, suffered fatal spinal injuries when the Renault Kangoo she was a passenger in was struck on Old Lane, Beeston, Leeds, on September 10, 2014.
The prosecution allege four men in a VW Passat who drove into the side of the Kangoo did so in order to make fraudulent injury compensation claims from insurance companies.
The alleged driver of the Passat, Sabbir Hussain, 25, and two alleged passengers, Raja Hussain, 30, and Shahrear Islam-Miah, 26, are on trial accused of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit fraud.
A fourth man, Muhammed Ubaidullah, has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter, conspiracy to commit fraud and attempting to pervert the court of justice.
Peter Moulson, QC, prosecuting, told the jury at the start of the trial. “All were involved, we say, in what has come to be known as a cash for crash collision.”
Mr Justice Goss adjourned the case after dismissing the jury today during the third week of the trial. The trial will continue on Monday.
The judge described how there had been a series of events after jurors left the court building, on Oxford Row, in Leeds city centre, yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) around 3.30pm.
Three jurors were walking together near to the city centre when they were each offered £500 by a woman to return guilty verdicts in the case.
The judge said: “One of those three jurors was so upset and felt so disconcerted by what had taken place that they felt unable to serve as a juror.”
Another juror, who had left the court separately, was approached by a man and offered money to return NOT guilty verdicts.
The court heard a fifth juror was also followed by a man holding what was thought to be a sum of money.
The judge continued: “The pursuit was persistent and disconcerted him so that he felt he could not remain loyal to his jury oath.”
In an earlier incident, on Monday this week, the court building had to be evacuated after an “act of vandalism” then the glass panel of a fire alarm had been smashed.
As jurors from the manslaughter trial were gathered outside the building, some noticed a man drive slowly past in a car and appear to film them.
Dismissing the jurors, the judge said: “There has undoubtedly been an attempt to tamper with you.”
The judge told the jurors he was sorry that they could be allowed to reach verdicts, especially as the case had reached the summing up stage.
He thanked them for their efforts in the trial and taking their civic responsibilities seriously.
Mr Justice Goss said he was taking the decision to continue to try the case without a jury as he considered that the three defendants would receive a fair trial.
The men were remanded in custody until the case resumes on Monday.
Raja Hussain, of Trentham Grove, Beeston, Leeds; Sabbir Hussain, of no fixed address, and Shahreer Islam Miah, of George Street, Oldham, plead not guilty to manslaughter and conspiracy to commit fraud.