Articles Criminal Defence 1st Jul 2015

In The Hands Of The Jury

Although there were only two defendants, the trial of Charles Frisby and Ian Shakespeare was a lengthy and paper heavy trial. I say ‘paper heavy’ but all of the prosecution evidence was served electronically (not so unusual I hear you say) and the jury bundle was similarly presented.

Jury empanelment began in this case on Monday 12th January and the jury was sworn the following day. The jury retired to begin considering their verdicts on Thursday 23rd April, the 56th day of the trial. On Thursday 7th May, the 65th day of the trial the jury concluded their deliberations.

The case involved allegations of fraudulent trading across a range of interconnected companies and allegations of the misappropriation and misuse of funds from banks and from more than 100 private investors. The period involved exceeded 6 years and the amounts lost were not inconsiderable; at the point that the parent company went into administration it was in debt to banks and financial institutions to the tune of more than £7 million and private investors were owed more than £6.9 million.

The extensive material recovered by the investigation team at Derbyshire Police comfortably exceeded 500,000 pages. It included extensive correspondence and other documentation with investors, extensive and detailed email and written correspondence and other material with banks, solicitors, accountants, property development companies and various creditors and associated businesses.

The case as served electronically exceeded 36,000 pages of evidence. It was clear that a very considerable amount of that contemporaneous material (letters, emails, file notes etc.) over a period of six years would have to be placed before the jury.

Approximately 6,000 pages of material were identified as forming the basis of a jury bundle for trial. Additionally, ‘Electronic Presentations of Evidence’ (EPsE) which presented the evidence in relation to a specific property project in a series of slides explaining the timeline of the project as well as the financial evidence relating to it were prepared. Allied to that we produced schedules of banking material and accounting material; as an aside, the police financial analyst had prepared similar schedules in a case in 1990 – all of which had been handwritten. A detailed chronology of key events in the case was also prepared for the jury.

A traditional paper jury bundle of 6,000 pages at 500 pages per lever arch file would have required 12 folders. If jurors had one between two then the jury would have had 72 bundles to contend with; this was plainly impractical.

It was self evident that the jury bundle would have to be electronic. Having considered the various options it was decided to present the jury bundle on tablets (we settled on iPads) and each juror (as well of course as all the lawyers and each defendant) had her/his own individual iPad for the duration of the trial.

The iPads were supplied, uploaded and managed on a daily basis by an independent company (Acume) who collected them from the jury at the end of each day and recharged them. During that process the tablets could be updated by the addition of any extra documents any party required and the index updated accordingly. There was a protocol established and signed by the company as to their undertakings and impartiality. The process required an Acume operator to be at court each and every day, but although the cost of the company’s services fell on the CPS, Acume was wholly separate to and independent of the prosecution team and the operator’s services were equally available to all the parties and the court.

The ‘bundle’ was structured so that there was an index (which could be returned to with a single tap) and the index was split into relevant sections (investors, employees, banking, land purchase, etc.). The relevant exhibits were listed on the index to the section and hyperlinked. Exhibits could be bookmarked, highlighted, annotated etc. and easily found using the device’s search facility.

The ability to add PDF files at certain stages of the case was particularly useful. For example, we compiled a new PDF for cross-examination. The documents were all already on the iPad but in numerous different sections which would have meant returning to the index, identifying the witness and clicking the appropriate hyperlink. In order to ensure fluency we compiled a new PDF file with the documents listed and hyperlinked in the order in which they would be required. That enabled the jury to follow the cross examination from a single PDF and scroll across the documents like turning the pages of a book.

We had originally intended that the witnesses called would also have an iPad and navigate through their documents along with the jury and everybody else in court. After the first few witnesses had been called we realised that whilst the jury had rapidly gained familiarity with the system, the witnesses were new to it each time and so lagged behind through no fault of their own. We resolved that issue by placing a screen at the witness box and the documents were put on screen by the Acume operator for the witness while the jury had them already on their individual iPad.

For clarity and to ensure that everyone was on the right page at the right time, and for occasions when it was necessary to compare documents against each other, there were also two large screens at either end of the jury box upon which documents were displayed.

Everyone involved in the case (even one particular Luddite who initially used his iPad as a coaster) was impressed with its properties and with the speed at which the jury became adept at navigating their way to the appropriate exhibits. For those of us involved in its prosecution we wouldn’t hesitate to do it this way again. There does, however, remain a role for a paper jury bundle in a case of this magnitude and complexity. A bundle of agreed schedules and admissions was, we discovered, the best way to present such documentation; one between two in the usual way.

Brian was Leading Counsel for the prosecution in the case of R v Frisby & Shakespeare tried recently at Nottingham Crown Court. His juniors were David McLachlan of 7 Harrington St. Liverpool and Stephen McNally of Exchange Chambers, Liverpool. They were instructed by Stephen Rowland of the Specialist Fraud Division of the CPS.

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