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Chris Huhne changes plea to guilty

(373 Posts)
NicholasTeakozy Mon 04-Feb-13 11:03:10

BBC link here. I reckon that's the end of his political career then.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 11:21:15

The jury also seemed to ignore the fact that if they're not sure then she is innocent.
If, when presented with the case for the prosecution, they don't feel fairly certain that the defendant is guilty, they are supposed to return a verdict of not guilty.
That doesn't mean they believe in their hearts necessarily that the person is inncocent but they must find a person not guilty if the prosecution case has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the opposite is true.

Daddelion Thu 21-Feb-13 11:27:55

I was a juror and we asked what beyond all reasonable doubt actually meant.

As we had two people of questionable character, one said the other was guilty, the accused said they were innocent.

We had to decide beyond all readonable doubt that the accused was guilty, we couldn't as it was one liars word against another liars word.

We'd have been guessing.

I suppose it could be changed to 'make an educated guess'

cumfy Thu 21-Feb-13 11:32:43

Yes we all know they took vows but a jury is not supposed to discuss things 'we all know' just things that are mentioned in the court room. Anything else they know has to be disregarded.

Sorry this is just wrong Tiggy.wink
And so is the judge.

The jury are entirely entitled to use their common sense and their common knowledge of the world. They are absolutely not constrained to follow unerringly the evidence and arguments from the prosecution, the defence, or for that matter the judge.

Where the judge has fucked up here is in not recognising that it is common knowledge that VP and CH will have taken marriage vows, and that those vows are to love, honour, and obey.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 11:34:46

Not all wedding vows are to love, honour and obey though. I am married and I never promised anything about obeying (loving and honouring yes but obeying - no)

how on earth would any jury know what was in someone else's wedding vows? It would just be guessing and pure guess work is not allowed when reaching a verdict

Xenia Thu 21-Feb-13 11:47:49

Very few make those vows to love honour and obey in the UK today, but it was certainly not strange that a jury (perhaps some of whom might have been from marriages with those vows who might even obey their husband in the context of this very old fashioned defence of marital coercion) might ask that question.

I would imagine if the Huhnes had that kind of ethos in the relationship her defence would have gone on and on about it. It doubt it was Greek orthodox ceremony as it was her second marriage.

cumfy Thu 21-Feb-13 11:53:35

Juries are allowed to infer.

If say 90% of Christian weddings included a vow to obey, a jury would be able to infer there was a 90% likelihood that VP and CH took those vows.(In the absence of any trial evidence)

The end result in any case is that the law trumps wedding vows, and a vow to obey could not support the defence of marital coercion.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 11:53:43

I agree Xenia - if the defence had made a big thing about her wedding vows, the jury would have been quite right to discuss these.

As it was, she never mentioned them and nor did the prosecution. It is scary that the jury would want to guess what was in someone else's wedding vows (obey or not obey) and then base any decision partially on that. That is totally wrong of them.

The jury are not idiots - they wanted clarification on some points and it is a weird case to listen to but some of their questions are scary in the sense that it proves they were considering evidence that had never been presented in court. It proves they were engaged in guess work
At least one of them, like cumfy, guessed that all brides vow to obey their husbands and concluded that it must apply here when it is irrelevant to the case presented and quite probably not true here anyway.

Xenia Thu 21-Feb-13 11:56:57

A history of obedient (have an abortion and then she did. Have a second one and she nearly did) though is relevant. I presume it would be easier to prove marital coercion if you were say a wife in the Brethern religion where you don't go out without someone else, only do what your husband says etc etc or a Saudi wife in London.

The questions don't show they were all wrong. They just show one of them wanted to ask that question and perhaps the others let it forward as they were sick to death of that one juror going on and on about a point they all knew was not relevant and the only way to shut her up was to get it on the list of questions.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 12:02:56

If say 90% of Christian weddings included a vow to obey, a jury would be able to infer there was a 90% likelihood that VP and CH took those vows.(In the absence of any trial evidence)

The vow to obey is very uncommonly used. It was dropped by most from the 1920's onwards. It has never formed part of a Catholic service or a Scottish one either I don't think. For a jury to guess that this couple are Christian and got married in an English CofE church and went against the norm to vow to obey is not inference - it is complete and utter guesswork

It would be completely wrong for a jury to jump to such enormous conclusions just because they have a couple stood before them who are married and may or may not be Christians.

The end result in any case is that the law trumps wedding vows, and a vow to obey could not support the defence of marital coercion.

She never said it did. Nobody in the defence team ever mentioned marriage vows. They did however use the defence (which is a legal one) that a wife can be pressurised by her husband to commit a crime against her will. This is a perfectly legal and valid defence with or without any vow to obey. It may not be a popular or fair defence (men can't use it as a defence) but as the law stands, a wife can be innocent of a crime if her husband pressurised her into doing it.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 12:13:05

Just looked it up - they didn't have a Christian Wedding - they had a Greek Orthodox one so any jury making guesses based on the % of Christian wedding vows that include the word obey would not only be failing in their duty as jurors by discussing things not presented in court - they'd be totally on the wrong track as well.

It is good that they asked the judge to clarify this but scary that someone on the jury was obviously insisting on bringing up completely irrelevant facts and guesswork when considering a verdict.

I don't think we should criticise jurors for asking questions but when they are the sort of questions that prove someone on the jury has completely misunderstood how they should be making a decision - and has gone off into the realms of making stuff up - it is scary because other juries may be doing the same for all we know but when they reach a verdict we don't have their deliberations made public

cumfy Thu 21-Feb-13 12:13:16

Tiggy we are talking at cross-purposes.

I am simply indicating that juries are allowed to use common knowledge in their consideration of the verdict, and that marriage vows are a matter covered by common knowledge.

Whilst I am happy to defer your clearly superior knowledge of marriage vows that does not affect the principle that juries can, do, and should infer from evidence and common knowledge.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 12:19:38

I am not trying to be rude but your example is a good one because your "common knowledge" of marriage vows turns out to be totally incorrect on two counts: 1. Most Christians do not promise to obey and 2. This couple were married in a Greek Orthodox ceremony not a Christian one

Therefore any jury using your "common knowledge" would be considering totally the wrong facts. That is why juries are told over and over again to only consider what has been discussed in court.

Common knowledge doesn't apply to guessing someone's marriage vows. It applies to things like accepting some people lie, accepting that great big men are unlikely to feel intimidated by 9 year old girls, accepting that a parent is likely to try to cover for their child....... It is about common sense not guessing facts.

Xenia Thu 21-Feb-13 12:35:11

Also this was in London where you may well have heaps of Muslim, African Indian etc women and many others who see obeying a husband as very much their tradition and part of marriage. London is not a majority white city by any means.

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Thu 21-Feb-13 12:37:16

I actually did not realise when on jury service that any question we asked the clerk would result in us all being called back into court to hear the judge's answer - and I wasn't the only one in the room who didn't know that. I can also imagine if there were a couple of questions going out anyway, one or two individual jurors may have simply added their quest

TheDoctrineOfSciAndNatureClub Thu 21-Feb-13 13:56:13

...questions to a pool that everyone was asking.

hackmum Thu 21-Feb-13 17:13:25

But tiggy, the Greek Orthodox church is a Christian church.

Anyway, the whole religion thing is clearly a red herring. I'm glad people here are taking the view that the jury wasn't being stupid, and that some of their questions are quite sensible. And in cases where they weren't sensible, I agree with Xenia that it might simply be the case that one juror got hold of the wrong end of the stick, so the jury asked for clarification to shut him/her up.

I think the jury were understandably confused. Neither the prosecution nor the defence presented a convincing case. Normally when that happens, the jury has to find for the defendant, but I can see that in this case - where the defendant had already admitted that she'd taken the points for her husband - they must have thought that that didn't seem quite right. Asking what "reasonable doubt" means is an entirely sensible thing to do in that case. The judge may say that the words are common English words but I'm sure philosophers could argue for hours about exactly what we mean by "reasonable".

There's a horrible article in the Mail (where else) by Melanie Phillips (who else) attacking the "stupidity and ignorance" of the jury. It seems particularly unfair as they're unable to answer back.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 18:03:32

Yes hackmum - but the Greek Orthodox ceremony doesn't have and has never had 'obey' in its vows. I should have said CofE not Christian.
I was responding to a poster that believed this married couple had a 90% chance of having the word obey as part of their vows and therefore said it was safe for juries to discuss it as a valid point.
Not only is that assumption totally untrue (the word obey not included for most people and not for this couple) but juries should not be discussing it anyway as it forms no part of the prosecution or defence.

I agree with your comment that where a jury cannot be convinced by either side, they are obliged to find the defendant not guilty. They obviously had a problem with this for some reason because one of their questions was:

"In the scenario where the defendant may be guilty but there is not enough evidence provided by the prosecution at the material time of when she signed the [Notice of Intended Prosecution] (between 3rd and 7th May 2003) to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt what should the verdict be = not guilty or unable/unsafe to provide a verdict?"

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 18:11:14

The other scary question of course being:

"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?"

I mean that is just confused but even there, I bet there was one juror who kept banging on about some wild speculation (perhaps to do with the marriage vows that had absolutely nothing to do with the case) and wouldn't let it go. The other jurors may have put the question to the judge because they were so fed up with patiently explaining over and over again that no, you cannot base your verdict on evidence that you have made up in your own head, that has never been mentioned in court and that there is no evidence for!

Maybe they thought that it would carry more weight coming from the judge and whoever it was that was speculating on 'facts with no evidence' would be forced to stop doing this.

BerylStreep Thu 21-Feb-13 18:33:52

There's no IQ test for becoming a juror.

wedwose Thu 21-Feb-13 19:27:27

Under the Criminal Justice Act 1967, a jury may draw reasonable inferences from all the evidence

Tiggytape is correct to state that common knowledge doesn't apply to guessing someone's marriage vows and that it is about common sense not guessing facts.

Ms Pryce does not say that any such reasoning (ie that she promised to obey her husband in her wedding vows and he had ordered her to do something and she felt she had to obey.....) formed any part of her decision to do what she did.

Therefore the judge was correct in his direction to the jury.

Xenia Fri 22-Feb-13 16:35:43

tiggy I suspect that was so. You are bound to get one or two jurors at times who will not let go of some point everyone else thinks is wrong.

hackmum Sat 23-Feb-13 18:54:39

Simon Hoggart had a diary piece in today's Guardian, talking about one of the times he served on a jury:

"In another case, actual bodily harm, the defendant had looked through the windows of a pub to see if his victim – his ex-girlfriend's new bloke – was in there. The barristers spent most of a day arguing to the judge in private about, we later learned, whether the fact that he had been banned from the pub for violent behaviour was admissible. The defence won, but it did them no good: our jurors just said: "Well, he must have been barred for being violent, or else he'd have gone inside."

Two things interesting about that. One is that they used information they didn't have (but guessed) to help them make their decision. This is something we're all supposed to frown upon. The second is that the jury was absolutely right to do so. I think it's very frustrating that juries have relevant information withheld from them on the basis that it might be "prejudicial". How are the jury supposed to come to a sensible conclusion if they haven't been told something that is highly pertinent to the case?

cumfy Sat 23-Feb-13 20:11:33

"Well, he must have been barred for being violent, or else he'd have gone inside."

See, this is really curious and you could say either:

A. They guessed. WRONG
B They inferred from all the available evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, the secondary conclusion[or they at least honestly believed the inference was logically determined from the evidence] CORRECT

The trouble is with this situation is that it is in practical terms impossible for the judge to direct the jury:

You should not speculate whether X was or was not banned from the King's Arms hmm

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