Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED June 4, 2003

Where a judge had given a majority verdict direction and Watson direction to the jury there had been no undue pressure to reach a verdict and the verdicts reached by the jury were not inconsistent.Appeal against conviction with leave of the single judge and renewed application for leave to appeal sentence. On 22 July 2002, at Teeside Crown Court, the defendant ('D') was convicted, following a retrial, of wounding with intent. He was acquitted of possession of a firearm with intent. HH Judge Bryant sentenced D to seven years imprisonment. At the first trial D had been acquitted of attempted murder but the jury had been unable to reach a verdict on the charges of wounding with intent and possession of a firearm with intent. D had been friends with and known the victim ('V') for about seven years. Until 1999 they had been in partnership running a security business. When the partnership dissolved V accused D of taking money and leaving him with liabilities. Threats were allegedly made by V and to sort the matter out a meeting was arranged in a local park where V was shot in the stomach by D. It was the prosecution's case that D had deliberately brought the gun to the planned meeting and deliberately shot V. D gave evidence that V had brought the gun to the park, there had been a struggle and the gun had accidentally been fired. At trial a forensic expert gave evidence that the gun had been fired at a maximum range of three feet. A police expert in weapons gave evidence that the chance of the gun going off accidentally, without the trigger being squeezed was slight. It was common ground that the shot had smashed through the window of D's vehicle. The trial lasted 21 days and the jury retired at midday on a Friday. On Monday at 12.30 pm the judge gave a majority verdict direction to the jury. At 3.15 pm the jury were given a Watson direction. At 4.08 pm the jury were brought back but they hadn't reached a verdict. The foreman, when asked, told the judge that he thought it was unlikely a verdict would be reached given more time. The judge gave them a little longer and at 4.33 pm they returned and gave their verdict. D appealed conviction on the grounds that: (i) the jury's decision to acquit D of possession of a firearm with intent and convict him of wounding with intent was inconsistent. If the jury were not sure that D had brought the gun with him then it was odd that they were sure the injury was not caused accidentally but intentionally; and (ii) the jury were put under undue pressure to reach a verdict that was reinforced by the speed in which the position changed from the foreman's view that a verdict was unlikely and the verdict.HELD: (1) The verdicts of the jury were not inconsistent. It was understandable that the jury may have been unsure who brought the gun and who had the necessary intent to use it, whereas, the jury were sure that the shot was fired deliberately. Evidence of for example, the distance of three feet between the gun and V, and the fact that the gun shot smashed the car window, indicated that the gun was not fired accidentally. (2) There was no undue pressure put on the jury. The Watson direction, even if an unusual direction, was given at an appropriate time and separate from the majority verdict direction. The direction was given in classic terms designed to emphasise that the jury must remain truthful to their oath. When the foreman gave his opinion that he thought it was unlikely the jury would reach a verdict the judge was entitled to send the jury back to make sure they agreed with his opinion.Appeal dismissed and renewed application refused.