A jury foreman and the publishers of The Times were found guilty of contempt of court yesterday for reporting how the jurors in a manslaughter trial reached their verdict.
Two judges in the High Court found that Michael Seckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd broke the strict law which bans the disclosure of the secrets of the jury room.
An order of committal was requested meaning a fine or a jail sentence but the decision was adjourned until Friday next week.
Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 forbids the disclosure of votes cast, statements made, opinions expressed or arguments advanced by a jury in its deliberations in the jury room.
Mr Seckerson contacted The Times to express his doubt over the verdict in the trial of Keran Henderson, a childminder found guilty of the manslaughter of 11-month-old Maeve Sheppard in 2007. She was jailed for three years, and is to begin an appeal against her conviction later this month.
Mr Seckerson was one of two jurors who dissented in a 10-2 majority verdict, and he approached The Times to question the verdict and the role played by evidence given by expert medical witnesses.
In an article written by Frances Gibb, legal editor for The Times, on December 19, 2007 five weeks after the Henderson trial Mr Seckerson was reported to have said: The consensus was taken three minutes after the foreman was voted in. It was 10-2 against, all based on the evidence. After that, there was no going back.