HM Attorney General v Seckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd: Admn 13 May 2009

The first defendant had been foreman of a jury in a criminal trial. He was accused of disclosing details of the jury’s votes and their considerations with concerns about the expert witnesses to the second defendant. The parties disputed the extent of disclosure required to amount to an offence.
Held: There was no place for the application of section 3 of the 1998 Act in the respondents’ favour so as to interpret restrictively the relevant words in section 8(1). Even if there were to be a place, section 3 would not permit an interpretation of the plain words used in a way that would influence the outcome of this application. Here the count of jury votes had been disclosed: ‘The words used in section 8 in relation to the ‘deliberations’; ‘statements made’, ‘opinions expressed’, ‘arguments advanced’, and ‘votes cast’ appear to me to cover the entire range of a jury’s deliberations when considering their verdict or verdicts in the case. Provided the disclosure is in relation to their deliberations in the case, and not about an extraneous matter, it comes within the section.’
and ‘The jury system has shown itself to be robust in operation and is valued highly in this jurisdiction. Its strength and value depend on the open and frank expression of views between twelve people in the secrecy of the jury room. Confidence to express views in that way depends on the juror’s knowledge that the views will not be revealed outside the jury room. Jurors should not be constrained by fears a juror would legitimately have if his friends and neighbours, and the general public, may come to know of his views, which could be unpopular views. If views were expressed in the hope of their being disclosed, or with an intention to disclose, that would also have a deleterious effect on the quality of deliberations.
It is the principle of the secrecy of the jury room which is at stake and which is central to the proper administration of justice in this jurisdiction, as stated in the authorities. It is not necessary to establish that the disclosure has led to injustice in the case concerned. Disclosures must be examined individually if the principle is to be maintained. Disclosures found to be in breach of the section do not obtain cover by being interwoven, whether intentionally or unintentionally interwoven, with expressions of general concern, which may legitimately be made by a juror. They do not obtain cover by the addition of favourable comments about how the jury functioned, as some of the disclosures in this case may have done. Indeed, disclosures incorporating favourable comment about other jurors could constitute a breach.’

Pill LJ, Sweeney J
[2009] EMLR 371, [2009] EWHC 1023 (Admin), [2009] EMLR 20
Contempt of Court Act 1981 8, European Convention on Human Rights 10
England and Wales
CitedHM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd and Others QBD 9-Dec-1992
A newspaper was held to have been in contempt of court for publishing details of the deliberations of a jury, even though it had not solicited the information. Beldam LJ said of the word ‘disclosure’: ‘It is a word wide enough to encompass the . .
CitedAttorney General v New Statesman and National Publishing Company Ltd 1981
The Attorney General sought an order of contempt of court at common law following the publication in the ‘New Statesman’ of a juror’s account of significant parts of the jury’s deliberations in the course of arriving at their verdict in the trial of . .
CitedHM Attorney-General v Associated Newspapers Ltd and Others HL 4-Feb-1994
Following the acquittal of a prominent politician on a charge of conspiracy to murder, the New Statesman magazine published an article, based on an interview with one of the jurors, which gave an account of significant parts of the jury’s . .
CitedAttorney General v Scotcher HL 19-May-2005
Following a trial, a juror wrote to the defendant’s mother to say that other jury members had not considered the case in a proper manner. He had been given written advice that he was not free to discuss a case with anyone. He appealed his conviction . .
CitedGregory v The United Kingdom ECHR 25-Feb-1997
A judge’s direction to the jury to disregard any question of racial bias was sufficient to ensure a fair trial for the defendant. In discussing the protection of the secrecy of jury deliberations: ‘The court acknowledges that the rule governing the . .
CitedRegina v Pan; Regina v Sawyer 29-Jun-2001
Canlii (Supreme Court of Canada) Constitutional law – Charter of Rights – Fundamental justice – Whether common law rule of jury secrecy and Criminal Code prohibition on disclosure of information about . .
CitedDu Roy And Malaurie v France ECHR 3-Oct-2000
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Violation of Art. 10; Non-pecuniary damage – finding of violation sufficient; Costs and expenses partial award – Convention proceedings
The court strongly . .
CitedAssociated Newspapers Ltd v United Kingdom ECHR 30-Nov-1994
The newspaper said that a finding against it of contempt of court for publishing material derived from a jury’s deliberations infringed its rights of free speech.
Held: The complaint was declared inadmissible. ‘The Commission agrees with the . .

Cited by:
CitedCTB v News Group Newspapers Ltd and Another (1) QBD 16-May-2011
A leading footballer had obtained an injunction restraining the defendants from publishing his identity and allegations of sexual misconduct. The claimant said that she had demanded money not to go public.
Held: It had not been suggested that . .
At AdmnSeckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd v The United Kingdom ECHR 24-Jan-2012
The first applicant had been chairman of a jury and had expressed his concerns about their behaviour to the second applicant who published them. They were prosecuted under the 1981 Act. They had said that no details of the deliberations had been . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Contempt of Court, Human Rights, Media

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.343066