Under UK law, it is illegal for the people on a jury to ever speak about what went on in the jury room. Today’s Guardian includes a piece by one woman who was on a jury which found Kirk Reid not-guilty of sexual assault in 1996. He went on to commit a series of sexual assaults which – finally – landed him in prison, but not before at least 71 women were assaulted.
She makes a compelling case for at least partially lifting the restrictions on jurors.
Juries look to the judge for guidance. Judge Gee, looming over us with pompous disdain, decreed that there was no DNA evidence. He did not remind us that the woman’s testimony was evidence enough. He appeared to instruct us that any conviction might be unsafe.
Our jury room movie would have been called One Angry Woman and 11 Irritated People Who Want Lunch. Jury secrecy laws forbid me from saying more than that the judge’s instructions must have reverberated in the minds of my fellow jurors. When Reid was found “not guilty”, the young victim looked at the jury in dismayed disbelief. She had faced her attacker in court, only to be publicly discredited. I was determined to let her know that the verdict did not mean she had been disbelieved.
I tracked down her address and wrote praising her bravery. The letter I received back was harrowing. When Reid was acquitted, the young woman was crushed, emotionally distraught and frightened of reprisals. She was comforted by the fact that someone believed her.
Reid went on to assault large numbers of women in the same way, raping several of them. But the police are not the only ones to blame. Not only was the CPS tactically inept, but why was a man like Judge Gee – formerly a commercial solicitor – appointed to the criminal court? (He was later arrested for mortgage fraud. His own jury failed to agree.)