Glasgow & West Scotland

'Improper' juror jailed for taking bribe during trial

Joseph Leahy and his mother, Catherine Image copyright Iain McLellan/Spindrift Photo Agency
Image caption Catherine Leahy's son Joseph was originally on trial with her but the charges against him were dropped

A juror has been convicted of taking a bribe during a five-month money laundering and drug trafficking trial.

Catherine Leahy, 62, a retired classroom assistant, was given nearly £3,000 in three separate payments. Evidence against her was gathered by bugging her Glasgow home.

Leahy was the spokeswoman on a jury which acquitted alleged drug dealer Graham Clarke and others.

The Crown Office confirmed it may now seek a retrial.

A spokeswoman said: "We note the outcome of this case.

"Further consideration will be given to the circumstances of the original trial in which Leahy served as a juror."

Leahy will be sentenced next month.

At the High Court in Glasgow judge Lord Turnbull told her: "You took advantage of your public responsibility of jury service and you took a bribe.

"This is conduct which strikes at the heart of the justice system. It is matched in its gravity by its rareness.

"It is obvious that for such a serious offence only a custodial sentence can be imposed."

Prosecutor Iain McSporran QC said the Crown's position is that four amounts of cash paid in to Leahy's Santander bank account between 19 April and 2 June 2016, was bribe money.

These sums of £300, £1,000, £1,200 and £330 amounted to £2,830.

Image caption The charges against Lindsay and Graham Clarke were not proven

Leahy denied that she had been bribed saying in evidence: "Absolutely not."

She claimed the money came from a cheque for £7,446.77 she received from a British Shipbuilders and menage (type of savings club) money.

But, the jury did not believe her and after deliberating for three hours found her guilty by majority.

The court heard that the day after the verdict in Mr Clarke's trial, the procurator fiscals' office received a tip-off that members of the jury may have been bribed.

A probe into all the jurors' finances was ordered at the highest level after suspicion fell on Leahy.

Her home in Springboig, Glasgow, was bugged from 19 to 30 September, 2016.

Money trail

The investigation into Leahy's finances was led by Det Insp Graeme Everest of the organised crime and counter terrorism financial investigations unit.

High level discussions, including a meeting between the Lord Advocate and Lord President, led to the decision being taken to bug the house Leahy shared with her 22-year-old son Joseph.

He was originally on trial with his mother but the charges against him were dropped.

The court heard that a trawl of jurors' bank accounts led to Leahy.

Thirty-one conversations between Leahy and her son were recorded by the hidden bug in their home.

At one point Mr Leahy is heard to say: "Mum it wasn't just you that got bribed so that now when they come to you, you're a step ahead."

His mother then said: "There is nothing that can link you with them."

Jury nobbling

Leahy is also heard saying that she hopes her son's car was not bugged and then adds: "That night I went down there nobody could have seen me."

She served as a juror in the trial of Graham Clarke, his wife Lindsay and others.

All the charges against Mr Clarke were not proven and his wife was convicted of mortgage fraud.

The trial ran from 2 November 2015 to 14 April 2016.

One juror was dismissed during the trial.

Leahy denied acting improperly as a juror and taking "a bung" and claimed that when she heard rumours of jury nobbling she treated it as a joke.

'Most unusual case'

The court heard that Leahy did not have a lot of money and had to work to a strict budget.

At the time of the trial she had her salary as a classroom assistant and a widow's pension.

As she was led away to the cells Leahy blew a kiss to her son Joseph, who was sitting in the public benches.

Lord Turnbull deferred sentence for background reports.

The judge told the jury: "This has been a most unusual case.

"I'm not personally aware of a previous case of a juror taking a bribe in the course of a trial."

Responding to the conviction, Det Ch Supt Gerry McLean from Police Scotland said: "This is a highly unusual case and instances of a jury being interfered with in Scotland are extremely rare.

"In respecting the role which jury trials play in the Scottish criminal justice system, Police Scotland understood the need to handle this case in a sensitive manner, while working with Crown Office to evidence the facts of this case.

"This required the specialist skills of investigators from Police Scotland's Organised Crime & Counter Terrorism Unit. Through their professionalism and meticulous approach to this complex case, we were able to present the facts to the court and welcome their decision."

He added: "There can be no place in Scotland for those involved in criminal activity to undermine the rule of law. It was important for Police Scotland to take all reasonable steps to guard this position and to protect jurors from such interference or intimidation."

It is understood the Crown can ask the court for authority to bring a fresh prosecution in cases where a person was previously acquitted, in certain circumstances.

This can include when an offence against the course of justice in the original trial is considered to have been committed, as set out in the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Act 2011.

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