A judge is to try a case alone for only the second time in English legal history amid reports of several jurors being offered £500 cash bribes outside court.
Mr Justice Goss dismisssed the jury in the ‘cash for crash’ case at Leeds Crown Court yesterday, in which four men are accused of the manslaughter of Betty Laird, 88.
Driver Sabbir Hussain, 25, and alleged passengers, Raja Hussain, 30, and Shahrear Islam-Miah, 26, had been on trial accused of killing her.
The two-week trial heard Mrs Laird suffered fatal spinal injuries when the Renault Kangoo she was a passenger in was struck in Leeds, West Yorkshire, by a VW Passat.
Prosecutors alleged that the four men in the Passat had hit the other vehicle in order to make fraudulent injury compensation claims from insurance companies.
Mr Justice Goss dismissed the jury yesterday (Wednesday) after the court heard jurors were filmed when the building was evacuated after a fire alarm was deliberately activated.
The court was also told some members of the jury had been approached as they left the court building and offered sums up to £500 in cash.
Mr Justice Goss said there had been a series of events which demonstrated “concerted attempts” to tamper with jurors.
The judge took the unusual step of using powers under section 46 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which allows him to continue to hear the case without a jury.
The three defendants were also accused of conspiracy to commit fraud. A fourth man, Muhammed Ubaidullah, has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter, conspiracy to commit fraud and attempting to pervert the court of justice.
Judge Goss adjourned the case after dismissing the jury. The trial will continue on Monday (February 27).
It would be the second Crown Court case in England and Wales to be heard by a judge alone using powers under Sections 44 and 46 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which came into force in July 2007.
It allows for a trial without a jury when there is evidence of “a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place” and where additional measures to prevent it would not fully succeed.