Judge’s shock at ‘incapable’ jury as Pryce faces retrial

SHAMED former MP Chris Huhne’s ex-wife faces a retrial after a jury described by a judge as suffering “absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding” failed to reach a verdict in her case.

Vicky Pryce
Vicky Pryce

Vicky Pryce, 60, will stand trial again for perverting the course of justice as early as next week after the jury at Southwark Crown Court was discharged yesterday after saying it was “highly unlikely” it would reach even a majority verdict.

Mr Justice Sweeney said in 30 years he had never seen a situation like it after being presented with a list of 10 questions by the jury on Tuesday, after nearly 14 hours of deliberations.

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They included: “Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it, either from the prosecution or defence?”

Discussing a possible solution, the judge said: “Quite apart from my concern as to the absolutely fundamental deficits in understanding which the questions demonstrate I wonder, given that it is actually all there and has been there the whole time, the extent to which anything said by me is going to be capable of getting them back on track again.

“In well over 30 years of criminal trial I have never come across this at this stage, never.”

Prosecutor Andrew Edis QC said the jury of eight women and four men did not appear to have “truly understood” or “sufficiently grasped” its task.

“I don’t ever recollect getting to this stage in any trial, even in far more complicated trials than this one, and after two days of deliberations a list of questions of this very basic kind illustrating that at least some jurors do not seem to have grasped it,” he said.

“This is not a classic case of jury irregularity or misconduct.

“This is, in my experience a fairly unique situation where, after a short and legally simple case, a jury has after a long – perhaps disproportionately long – retirement sent out a note containing nine questions which are aimed at attempting to understand the fundamental purpose of their presence. This is not jury misconduct, this is not irregularity, this is a jury which has not, it appears, understood its function.

“This kind of list of questions after two days of deliberations in a short case is unparalleled in my experience and requires what is undoubtedly an unusual approach.”

Pryce, 60, of Clapham, south London, now faces a retrial, possibly as early as next week.