A former Irwin Mitchell lawyer has been jailed for two months after she wrecked a child sexual abuse trial in which she was sitting as a juror.
Caroline Mitchell is no longer an employee of the personal injury firm, after she left voluntarily before she was sentenced.
Mitchell and her fellow jurors had been instructed by Judge Simon Hickey both in writing and orally not to conduct their own research. But Mitchell ignored him and broke her juror's oath in order to dig into the case on the web one evening, screenshotting information which she passed around the jury on her iPad the following day.
The 53-year-old's private investigation work meant the trial had to be abandoned, wasting £90,000, and the alleged victim and perpetrator had to wait eight months for a new trial, and had to give their evidence again.
Feeding the jurors what she'd googled risked the wrong verdict being returned, said Judge Guy Kearl QC at York Crown Court, and as a solicitor she knew "the importance of court orders and the consequences of breaching them", he said.
"This is simply a terrible day in the life of Caroline Mitchell", said her lawyer, according to the York Press, adding that the 27PQE associate may now be struck off.
"I don’t doubt you didn’t intend to undermine the course of justice, but that is the effect of what you were doing", said the judge, ruling that "Appropriate punishment can only be be found by an immediate custodial sentence".
Irwin Mitchell declined to comment, but noted that Mitchell (no relation) was acting as a juror in a personal capacity, and that the firm had nothing to do with the case.