Photo: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty
This week the jury in the UK’s highest profile ongoing trial were supposed to give a verdict — was Vicky Pryce guilty or innocent of the charge of “perverting the course of justice”.The jury failed.
It’s a big deal as the trial was related to one of the biggest scandals of 2013 in British politics. Pryce says she was “coerced” in 2003 by her husband into taking driving penalties on her licence rather than his, so he would not be banned.
Her husband, Chris Huhne, was one of the most prominent people in the UK’s coalition government. In the past few years he was dogged with questions about the case after he left his wife and details became public, and early in 2003 was forced to admit guilt and resign from parliament. He is likely to face jail time.
Pryce’s trial hinged on whether she could use a defence of “marital coercion” or not.
However, the jury appeared to have some serious problems with the case. The BBC reports that the jury had asked 10 questions about their basic duties after around 14 hours of deliberations and lots of explanations from the judge already.
According to the Times of London, questions on the list included one that asked if a member of the jury could come to a verdict based on a “reason that was not present in court and had no facts or evidence to support it” or another that asked if they could “speculate about the events at the time Ms Pryce signed the form or what was in her mind at the time”.
They also asked the judge to define “a reasonable doubt”, to which he responded:
“A reasonable doubt is a doubt that is reasonable. These are ordinary English words that the law does not allow me to help you with, beyond the written directions that I have already given.”
The Judge in the case, Mr Justice Sweeney, said that the jury had demonstrated a “fundamental deficit in understanding” of their role.
Today, after the jury told him it was “very unlikely” they would be able to reach a verdict, the judge dismissed them. He added that in his 30-year long career, he had “never come across this at this stage. Never”.
Pryce will face a retrial beginning on Monday.
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