Juror who skipped duty for Maltese holiday jailed for 56 days

A juror has been jailed for 56 days for going on holiday during a trial.

Janet Chapman, from Blackpool, rang Preston Crown Court claiming to be suffering from sciatica when she was actually in Malta.

She had been a jury member on the trial of a cash-in-transit robber being prosecuted by Ian Unsworth QC of Liverpool-based 7 Harrington Street Chambers.

But she failed to show up as Judge Stuart Baker began summing up in the fourth week.

Chapman left a telephone message saying: “Hello, this is Janet Chapman juror number ***. I won’t be attending court for a period of up to two weeks. I have got to return to the doctors next Tuesday. I have got sciatica. Thank you. Bye.”

She was arrested on a warrant when she returned to the UK and charged with contempt of court.

At a hearing at Preston Crown Court, Chapman was represented by Deans Court barrister Paul Humphries – instructed by Fylde-based Blackhurst Budd Solicitors – who claimed his client had been taken on a surprise holiday by her partner.

Judge Anthony Russell QC, Recorder of Preston, said: “I’m driven to the conclusion that you pretended to your doctor that you had a back problem in order that you could take a holiday in Malta.

“Your assertion to the police when you were arrested on your return to the United Kingdom that you were unaware that you could not go away on holiday whilst absent from jury duty due to what you maintain was illness is ludicrous. If you were too ill to attend court you were not fit to travel to Malta for the holiday.

“As a result of your actions the trial was delayed for two days while enquiries were made. There was genuine concern at first for your welfare. Extensive police enquiries were made which have cost the taxpayer considerable expense which should not have been incurred. The two-day delay to the trial has resulted in significant wasted costs, personal loss to several people and considerable inconvenience.”

Chapman will serve half of the 56-day sentence.