A crown court case had to be restarted after a woman “followed the crowd” and joined the jury by mistake, it has been reported.
The woman, who had been summoned for jury service but not selected for the trial, inadvertently followed a chosen jury into the courtroom and sat down among them.
She had been sitting outside the court in a pool of people from which panels are drawn to sit on juries.
She took the place of a missing male juror who had been sworn on to the jury but wasn’t there, the Southend Standard reported.
Once she had realised her mistake, which wasn’t spotted by staff at Chelmsford Crown Court, Essex, she alerted the judge, who sent the jurors out of the courtroom and called her back in alone.
Judge Jonathan Seely said he had never seen anything like it in his 30 years of handling cases.
He said her: “Don't worry, none of us noticed or noted it.
“The person who should be there for some reason did not head down. There were 12 people sworn in as jurors yesterday, you were not one of them.
“There is no question of me discharging you, you're not on this jury.
"What will happen is we will restart this case with the original jury. You can go back into the pool and you will be able to serve on another jury."
The court ensured the woman had no connection to any of the people involved in the upcoming trial, and she was warned not to discuss what she heard during the opening of the case.
Prosecuting barrister Lori Tucker had just finished her opening address to the jury when the mistake was realised.
Had the case gone ahead with the woman in the jury, it would have been a mistrial and any convictions would have been quashed.
Judge Seely reassured the woman that she had made a genuine mistake and had done the right thing by alerting him.
After the correct jury had assembled in court, he told them: "Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am not sure in my 30 years working in the courts this has ever happened before.
"The lady who was sitting in your position was, of course, not a member of this jury and simply followed the crowd I suppose.
"I have discussed the situation with counsel and there is no harm and no problem in the sense this was at a very early stage of the case."