From the Huddersfield Examiner
Eight members of the Huddersfield grooming gang who appealed their convictions because a juror in their trial carried out his own research have had the appeals dismissed.
Raj Singh Barsran (left, greeting photographers as he arrived at court during his trial in 2018) and the seven men he was convicted alongside appealed their convictions after a man on their jury panel researched his previous convictions.
The gang's ringleader - Amere Singh Dhaliwal - also appealed the life sentence handed down to him by the trial's presiding judge - Judge Geoffrey Marson QC.
The eight defendants were convicted of 85 offences and jailed for a total of 123 years and the juror was later handed a suspended sentence.
In July 2020, three judges at the Court of Appeal dismissed the applications, which had been made on the grounds of jury irregularity. The 12 jurors were warned before and during the trial not to conduct their own research as they would be provided with all the evidence they needed in the courtroom.
During Barsran's evidence, he said he could not have committed one of the offences as he was in prison at the time.
Prosecutor Richard Wright QC was concerned about the disclosure and, in fairness to the defendant, suggested to his barrister David Bradshaw that perhaps a form of words could be found that would remove the obvious risk of suspicion on the part of the jury that his time in prison might relate to sexual offending. That offer was rejected by the defence 'for their own tactical reasons'.
Mr Bradshaw made his closing speech on the morning of March 20 and during the break immediately afterwards the jury sent a note saying: "Your Honour, the jury would like to know why we are not to know why Raj was previously in prison when we know about others?"
The judge summed up the case against Barsran on the following day. The following morning, juror John Sayles searched Google for his name then his name plus the year 2013. During deliberations on April 11, 2018, jurors wanted to know why Barsran had been in prison. Sayles then said it had been for an assault and another juror told him that he should not be sharing such information.
The following day, a female juror told the court usher what had happened and both jurors were brought before Judge Marson.
Sayles admitted conducting research and was dismissed. He was handed a suspended prison sentence in March this year after pleading guilty to being a member of a jury who carried out research during the trial period. The 47-year-old, married, dad-of-three, of Meadow Brook Chase, Normanton, works as a paramedic and the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Guy Kearl QC, decided he was needed to serve the public during the coronavirus pandemic.
The judge refused the defence application to discharge the whole jury and deliberations continued with 11 jurors. He also refused an application to discharge the jury from returning verdicts on Barsran's charges. Barsran, then aged 34, of Caldercliffe Road, Berry Brow, Huddersfield, was convicted of two counts of sexual assault and one count of rape and jailed for 17 years.
Appeals were lodged on behalf of Barsran and the seven other men on the grounds of jury irregularity and were granted leave to appeal. Some advanced other grounds of appeal as well but single judge refused leave on those grounds.
The Recorder of London, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Spencer presided over the appeal. They had to decide if Sayles' offence had 'undermined the fairness of the trial and the safety of the convictions'.
The trio of judges heard the case at the Court of Appeal in London on June 19 this year and reserved judgment until July 3. The local newspaper carried this report a month later.
The appeals were all dismissed.
In the judgment, Mr Justice Spencer said: "We have given all these submissions very careful consideration. We have reached the clear and firm conclusion that, despite the undoubted jury irregularity, the trial was fair and all these convictions are safe."
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