Recently, there has been national interest in the trial of the Manchester City footballer, Benjamin Mendy who has now been found not guilty at Chester Crown Court in relation to seven charges against him concerning six charges of rape and one of sexual assault. However, papers have now reported that there was a hung jury in respect of two allegations made against Mendy and the Crown Prosecution Service have confirmed that they intend to retry him in respect of those allegations in June. So, what is a hung jury and what does a retrial mean?
The Jury System
The jury is considered a fundamental part of the English Legal System. In sense it plays a vital role in ensuring that the criminal justice system works for the benefit of the public. A jury is made up of 12 members of the public aged 18 or over. Anyone can be a juror as long as they are registered on the electoral registered and they are not excluded for some specific reason. Jurors are randomly selected in a fair process and before a trial starts the court ensures that no unfairness would occur to the defendant by the 12 people who are chosen to reach verdicts in their case.
In the criminal courts offences are classified into three categories; summary offences, indictable offences and either-way offences. Serious offences such as those tried in the case of Benjamin Mendy are indictable only offences, this means they are tried in the Crown Court before a jury.
The purpose of a jury is to weigh up the evidence and to decide what the true facts of the case are or what actually happened. The judge gives direction to the jury on the relevant law, to which the jury has to apply to the facts of the case in order to reach their verdict. If the jury reach a guilty verdict in a case, the responsibility of sentencing the defendant will be that of the judge.
What is a hung jury?
In an ideal world a jury will reach a clear conclusion by finding a defendant guilty or not guilty, however this is not always the case. A hung jury is a jury that, following hearing all of the evidence presented during a trial, cannot come to an agreement on the innocence or guilt of a defendant.
Where a jury consists of 12 members by the conclusion of a trial then at least 10 must agree on the verdict. If the number falls short, for example, with 8 wanting to acquit and 4 wanting to convict, that will not be an acceptable verdict. In the case of Mendy the jury started with the usual 12 in number, but one juror was discharged due to illness. Where a jury comprises 11 persons, the only majority verdict legally acceptable is 10-1.
If the jury indicates that they will not be able to reach a verdict, after the judge has given them additional time to decide, then the jury will need to be discharged. In legal terms, this is what is often referred to as a hung jury.
What happens next?
The prosecution can apply to have the defendant tried again, as is the case in the trial of Benjamin Mendy. The judge will then decide whether or not it is in the interests of justice for a retrial to take place. The court will consider a non exhaustive list of questions relevant to the case such as whether:
1) The alleged offence is sufficiently serious to justify a retrial
2) If convicted the defendant would be likely to serve a significant period or further period in custody
3) The defendant’s age and health
4) The wishes of the complainant of the alleged offence
The defence can respond to this application and in doing so would have to carefully consider all relevant factors to make any opposing application successful.
What happens if the second jury still cannot reach a verdict?
Usually, the outcome if the second trial results in a hung jury is for the prosecution to offer no evidence, effectively dropping their case. However, in very rare circumstances a further retrial could take place.
How we can help
PCD Solicitors have experience in preparing the most serious sexual offence cases for trial in the Crown Court. We work with specialist barristers with a history of specialising in sexual offences and the various legal challenges that can present in such cases.
For a free, confidential and no obligation chat, please contact us today on 0151 705 8488. Alternatively, complete our online enquiry form and one of our lawyers will be in contact with you.