South Wales Police officer in juror link on misconduct charge
A police officer lied about her link with a juror in a murder trial, leading to three convictions being quashed and a retrial, a disciplinary panel has heard.
Det Con Rebecca Bryant was a liaison officer to the family of Lynford Brewster, who was murdered in Cardiff in 2016.
Three men were found guilty of killing him at a re-trial in March.
Ms Bryant's son's girlfriend was a juror in the original trial in 2016.
The South Wales Police misconduct hearing was told Ms Bryant committed gross misconduct by lying about the fact she knew Lauren Jones, who was called for jury service for the trial.
She also sent her texts telling her not to reveal their relationship just before the trial started.
Presenting officer Jeremy Johnson told the hearing Ms Bryant had said in a text to Ms Jones: "Don't tell any of them who you are to me in case they think I told you about it (the case) even though I haven't."
Mr Johnson said: "DC Bryant knew the juror. She was the family liaison officer and failed to reveal that to the court or the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service)."
The evening before the trial, Ms Bryant sent a message to Ms Jones saying: "Are you looking forward to tomorrow?"
Ms Jones replied: "Yeah, I'm quite excited, a bit nervous because I don't know what I'm getting into xx."
Ms Bryant responded: "The murder trial is put back to the 1st not that that matters cos they'll hold you til then if they need to. Remember what I said though, as long as you don't know any of the witnesses that's fine.
"I won't be there hardly and I'm not a witness. Don't tell any of them what you are to me in case they think I've told you about it (the case), even though I haven't."
Ms Jones replied: "Oh, is it? I don't know them personally but I do see one family member, so not sure what will happen.
"It will be a good experience. I'll just be honest."
On another message, Ms Bryant offered to give Ms Jones a lift home from court.
"If you're on the murder you'll be finished the same time as me most days. You can have a lift to mine afterwards if you wanted x."
Ms Jones replied: "Fab thanks! The bus is a nightmare x."
Ms Bryant also told the juror she could miss a day of jury service to attend the hairdressers by saying she had an unspecified appointment which could not be changed.
"It is instructing a juror to give incomplete information, and misleading that the juror has an appointment when they might be sitting, but withholding the fact it is a hair appointment as opposed to something more important," Mr Johnson said.
At the end of the trial, Dwayne Edgar, 31, Jake Whelan, 26, and Robert Lainsbury, 25, were sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing 29-year-old Mr Brewster to death in Cardiff in June 2016.
But within weeks a complaint was made that Ms Bryant knew Ms Jones, and Ms Bryant was questioned by a South Wales Police officer.
Mr Johnson said: "She told DCI O'Shea she didn't know the juror. That was untrue.
"She corrected the position the following day, but by that stage the CPS had been given untruthful information in denying that underlying concern."
The morning after she had been questioned, Ms Bryant told the same officer: "I'm really, really, sorry, I do know that girl."
When Det Ch Insp O'Shea asked her why she did not disclose the information the day before, she replied: "I panicked."
The family of Lynford Brewster attended the initial jury selections and Mr Brewster's mother June Whittaker recalled a conversation with Ms Bryant after discovering one of the original jurors was known to the family.
Mr Brewster's stepfather said it might be good to have someone they knew on the jury, but Ms Bryant warned them: "You can't do that, that's perjury, you could get into trouble for that and could mess the case up."
"I was glad she did this because the last thing I wanted was a retrial," he said.
That juror declared their connection voluntarily and was replaced.
Ms Bryant has already admitted three breaches of professional behaviour in failing to disclose her relationship to Ms Jones.
She denies dishonest behaviour in relation to Ms Jones' hair appointment, and gross misconduct.
Ms Bryant joined South Wales Police in 1988, becoming a detective constable in 2001. She joined the major investigation unit in 2013 before becoming the Brewster family liaison officer in June 2016.
The hearing continues.