Majority Verdict Mistake – a writ of venire de novo – Patten [2018] EWCA Crim 2492

The appellant was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for indecent assault, indecency with a child and rape, and appealed against sentence. The Court identified an irregularity at trial. A juror had been discharged, after the complainant’s evidence, due to illness. The trial judge then took majority verdicts mistakenly accepting a majority on each count of guilty the ratio was 9:2. When there are 11 jurors, as in this case, s17(1) of the Juries Act 1974 stipulates ten jurors must agree for a majority verdict. Therefore, the convictions could not stand as the verdicts were invalid. He was also acquitted of a number of offences, on which the ratio was not known.

The jury were not asked whether they had reached any unanimous verdicts and the majority verdict was a misdirection. Neither of these issues, of themselves, affected the validity of the verdicts that followed. The result of the misdirection was that the jury returned verdicts of guilty that were invalid, and the appropriate course was for the court to issue a writ of venire de novo.

The defence argued the writ should not be issued as this power arises when a trial is a nullity and it was not in this case. The Court disagreed saying it was a remedy available to the court, as in the case of Stromberg [ 2018 ] . The Court held the writ could only apply to the Majority verdicts take in error not the acquittals .

Categories: Caselaw, Criminal Appeals

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