Judge's failure to give a Watson direction did not render the jury's majority verdict on liability unsafe since an important fact was that the jury of its own motion choose to consider the matter further. Therefore, it could not be seen that there was any reasonable apprehension of improper pressure brought on to the jury by the judge.Appeal by the defendant Chief Constable ('C') from the order of HH Judge Taylor at Birmingham County Court on 7 October 2002, whereby he gave judgment in favour of the claimant ('M') on a claim for damages for unlawful arrest, assault and malicious prosecution. The claim arose out of an incident in which M was arrested and charged for an offence under s.5(1) Public Order Act 1986. M was acquitted of the charge against her in September 1996. The trial before the judge was on liability only and a number of questions were formulated for the jury which was agreed unanimously on four of the six formulated questions. However on the remaining two questions, which determined the liability of C, the jury advised the judge that it had not agreed unanimously. The parties agreed that if the jury was unable to reach a 7:1 majority decision, it should be discharged. However, the judge informed that the jury was deadlocked on the liability questions, invited the jury to return, and an exchange took place with the foreman. That exchange revealed that the jury was not agreed to a majority of 7:1 on the remaining questions. The judge asked if a majority decision was possible and highlighted the difficulties surrounding a re-trial. The foreman advised the judge that there was no point going on but asked the judge if a majority verdict had to be one of 7:1. The judge advised the foreman that it had to be but that the jury was able to retire once again if it wanted to. The foreman told the judge that the jury wished to retire for further consideration. It did so and returned a majority verdict on the liability questions which had the result of finding liability against C. On this appeal C argued that the jury's answers to the liability questions were arrived at by improper pressure by the judge.HELD: (1) It was plain that the judge should have given a direction to the jury in line with R v Watson (1988) 87 CAR 1. It was clear from the exchanges between the judge and the jury foreman that he failed to do so. However, the judge's failure to give a Watson direction did not render the jury's verdict unsafe. The facts of each case were relevant (see, inter alia, R v Morgan (1997) Times, April 18, 1997). (2) In the present case an important fact was that the jury of its own motion choose to consider the matter further. The further and final retirement was at the jury's behest rather than at the judge's request. (3) Therefore, it could not be seen that there was any reasonable apprehension of improper pressure brought on to the jury by the judge. (4) (Obiter) Under s.17(2) Juries Act 1974, the jury need not reach a unanimous decision if at least 7 were agreed. However it was possible and open to the parties to reach an agreement of a narrower majority (see s.17(5)). Whilst it was a practice to agree on a narrower majority under s.17(5), the rule was not absolute. Accordingly, whilst not explored on the present appeal, there was, or there could be, tension with the duty of parties to further the overriding objective under CPR 1.3 and the choice that was open to parties not to exercise the choice under s.17(5) of the 1974 Act.Appeal dismissed.
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