Janet Chapman jailed for going on holiday during trial

A woman from Blackpool who went on holiday while sitting on a jury has been jailed for 56 days.

Janet Chapman, 52, rang Preston Crown Court to say she had back pain and could not attend for two weeks.

She said she thought that obtaining a seven-day sick note for sciatica meant she would automatically not have to attend the trial.

Recorder of Preston Judge Anthony Russell QC found her guilty of contempt of court.

He said: "I am satisfied that if you really suffered back pain of such severity that you could not continue your jury service you would not have been able to endure the travel to Malta.

"I am driven to the conclusion that you pretended to your doctor that you had a back problem in order that you could take a holiday in Malta."

The deputy care home manageress had listened to three weeks of evidence in a robbery trial at Preston Crown Court but failed to appear at the start of the final week of the scheduled four-week hearing.

Birthday present

She said she was unfit to attend and then on the following day, 20 March, she left a telephone message with the jury bailiff which said: "Hello, this is Janet Chapman. I won't be attending court for a period of up to two weeks. I have got to return to the doctors next Tuesday. I have got sciatica. Thank you. Bye."

It emerged she had flown out with her partner from Liverpool John Lennon Airport earlier that day for a week's holiday.

Trial judge Stuart Baker had, as normal procedure, asked all potential members of the jury before the case started whether there was any reason why they could not serve the set period of time and the defendant indicated there was none.

In explaining her absence from the proceedings, the court was told the trip had been a surprise birthday present for Chapman.

But Judge Russell said: "Your assertion to the police when you were arrested on your return to the United Kingdom that you were unaware that you could not go away on holiday while absent from jury duty due to what you maintain was illness is ludicrous.

"I do not accept the evidence and mitigation which has been put forward on your behalf and I specifically reject the assertion made on your behalf that by telephoning the court and informing the court of your supposed illness you thought that you had done all you needed to do and that there was nothing wrong with going to Malta - this was not the action of a responsible person."

The trial was delayed for two days while inquiries were made with "genuine concern at first for your welfare", said the judge.

It resulted in "significant wasted costs, personal loss to several people and considerable inconvenience".

Chapman was discharged from the jury in her absence and the trial continued and eventually concluded.

Judge Russell said: "It is essential that the duty of jury service is taken seriously by those called upon to perform it, and that it is performed diligently and responsibly.

"You have manifestly failed to perform your public duty.

"In my judgment this is a serious contempt of court which can only be met by an immediate sentence of imprisonment."

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