Northampton

Man cleared over Northampton court jury summons error

A man given a criminal record and a £500 fine for failing to respond to a jury summons sent to the wrong address has been cleared by an appeal judge.

Stephen Knight, 56, was found in criminal contempt of court when he failed to turn up for jury duty at Northampton Crown Court last year.

The Court of Appeal heard he was unaware because his summons was sent to his previous address.

Lord Justice Moses said Mr Knight should be refunded.

He criticised the responsible authorities for their mistakes, which have cost taxpayers at least £5,500 through Mr Knight's legal costs.

"Mr Knight is owed an apology from all of us involved in the criminal justice process," the appeal judge said.

Financial compensation

"Jury service is, if not the most important public service that ordinary citizens can fulfil, certainly one of them.

"It was undermined by the course of conduct in this case."

Mr Knight informed the authorities when he moved in October 2008, but the information was not "properly recorded", the court heard.

In May 2010, he was summoned to attend for jury service in July, but because he did not know, failed to attend.

A month later he was found in criminal contempt and fined £500, again without knowing anything of it.

The issue only came to light when one of Mr Knight's tenants at his previous address mistakenly opened a letter about details of the fine.

"Mr Knight is only guilty of a criminal contempt if he had been duly summoned under the Juries Act. He was never duly summoned," said Lord Justice Moses, who heard the appeal with Mr Justice Maddison and Mrs Justice Nicola Davies.

The Court Service and Jury Summoning Bureau should also "seriously consider" whether he should get financial compensation for the ordeal, he added.

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