Two defendants were tried for causing injuries to one child. The jury convicted the female defendant, of positive acts of cruelty against the child and returned a verdict of not guilty of those acts in respect of the male defendant. After the police had given evidence of the antecedent history of the woman, some 10 minutes later, a note was handed to the judge. This read: ‘We thought we found the appellant guilty of wilful neglect. What happens now?’ After discussion between judge and counsel an amended verdict was taken. The appellant was found guilty, not of assault or ill-treatment of the child but of wilful neglect. The appeal was put forward on the basis that the trial judge was wrong to exercise his discretion to allow the jury to return the amended verdict.
Held: Notwithstanding that the verdict of not guilty had originally been entered the conviction was upheld. Simon Brown J analysed some of the old authorities, saying: ‘It seems to this Court, both on those two authorities and as a matter of general principle, that the position in law is as follows: where the jury seeks to alter a verdict which has been pronounced by the foreman, the judge has a discretion whether to allow the alteration to be made. In exercising that discretion he will, it goes without saying, take into account all the circumstances of the case; in particular the important considerations will be the length of time which has elapsed between the original verdict and the moment when the jury express their wish to alter it, the probable reason for the initial mistake, the necessity to ensure that justice is done not only to the defendant but also to the prosecution. The fact that the defendant has been discharged from custody is one of the factors but is not necessarily fatal to the judge’s discretion to alter the verdict to one of guilty. If the jury had been discharged and a fortiori if they had dispersed, it might well be impossible for the judge to allow the verdict to be changed. That however it is unnecessary to decide upon the instant appeal. Clearly if there were any question of the jury’s verdict being altered as a result of anything they heard after a returning their initial verdict, then there could be no question of allowing a fresh verdict to be returned. But there is here no possibility of that having occurred.’
References: (1986) 82 Cr App R 148
Judges: Lord Lane CJ, Simon Brown J
This case cites:
- Cited – Rex v Vodden 1853
The court considered when a jury might be allowed to change its verdict. one of the jurors delivered a verdict of not guilty. The clerk heard, so did the chairman, who heard the same words. The prisoner was discharged from the dock. Others of the . .
((1853) Dears 229, (1853) 169 ER 706)
This case is cited by:
- Cited – Regina v Millward CACD 7-Apr-1998
The defendant was tried for causing grievous bodily harm. After a majority direction, the jury returned, finding him guity. When asked if this was ‘the verdict of you all’, the formean replied ‘Yes’. The day after, he wrote to the judge to say that . .
( EWCA Crim 1203,  1 Cr App R 61)
- Cited – Regina v Tantram; Regina v Bibby etc CACD 24-May-2001
The defendants appealed against their convictions for conspiracy in have combined to put into the human food chain poultry meat which had been condemned as unfit. The jury after retiremen had indicated that they had reached agreement on some . .
(Times 20-Jul-01,  EWCA Crim 1364, )
These lists may be incomplete.
Last Update: 27 November 2020; Ref: scu.192264