On Friday morning, I found myself at the imposing Shirehall, which houses both Worcester Crown and County Courts. I was there for a 2.15 hearing in Court 3 in the matter of R v [name redacted], though his name was published on the screen detailing the court listings.
With time to kill, your humble scribe ventured into the public gallery of Court 3, where the prosecution was giving a closing speech in the trial of R v David Leith. The jury consisted of 10 women and 2 men, all listening attentively. Mr Leith, a veterinary surgeon, had some 35 years ago allowed a girl to attend his practice on “work experience”. It seemed that she had a crush on him, and spent a lot of time at his practice.
According to her recollections as a mature woman of 48, he had from time to time had improper sexual contact with her, including at his flat. She had – from what prosecution counsel said – recorded these experiences in her diary, as a teenager. How could she be lying, despite the defence’s protestations to this effect? asked the prosecution. She demonstrated good memory: she even recalled being picked up in his red Mini!
I peered over the balcony, and watched the jury leafing through photocopies of diary entries. Time for an early lunch. On my return, I learnt that the press (well the Sun, Times, Mail and Telegraph) had briefed counsel to appear in R v [name redacted], to make the somewhat surprising application that the removal of reporting restrictions, which they had previously applied for successfully in January, should be overturned and reporting restrictions reinstated.
At 2.25 the judge, H. H. Judge Cartwright, said that he had a jury summing up to give in the other case and sent everyone out. We returned at 3.45, and various submissions were made. At 4.20 the judge announced he had a verdict in the other case, which I stayed to observe. The defendant was brought into what was not exactly a glass cage, but rather a closed off section at the back of the court, with a token glass balcony.
The jury filed in. The foreman (a woman) rose. “Have you reached a verdict on which all of you are agreed?”, asked the clerk. “Yes”. So, six counts were read out, and in each case the foreman said: “Not Guilty”. The defendant toppled forward, tears in his eyes.
Evidently, those contemporaneous diary entries failed to satisfy that jury, which delivered its verdict in double-quick time. I haven’t seen a jury verdict since I was a judge’s marshal, but I had the distinct impression that justice had been done.