The subject of juries has come in for quite a bit of discussion recently as a result of the first Vicky Pryce trial and the now infamous ten questions they put to the judge. They were eventually discharged and a fresh trial ordered when unable to agree a majority verdict and raised questions as to their ability of being able to 'grasp the basics' concerning the issues involved.
Of course we can never know what went on in the jury room as such deliberations must remain sacrosanct, but the measured view seems to be that the questions arose not from ignorance, but rather from some members exasperation and a valiant effort at trying to seek confirmation of the issues and therefore a decision. Obviously this was not to be and a re-trial is in progress.
I want to highlight a case where a jury has made a decision, but a deeply disturbing one in my view. As always, any discussion of a case without full knowledge can be risky, but the case of Nicola Edgington is truely shocking and one I simply do not understand.
Most press attention has focused on the IPCC report confirming that police failed to deal correctly with this woman's numerous telephone pleas for help. As someone who had already been subject to a Hospital Order for killing her mother some years before, she was becoming desperate to be 'sectioned' because of her state of mind. In one call she reportedly said 'the last time I felt like this I killed my mother' and yet she was not assessed or detained.
Tragically for everyone concerned, because this woman was not dealt with properly, she armed herself with a knife and committed two horrific attacks on random members of the public, almost decapitating one.
I think most people hearing the broad details of such a case would not require expert psychiatric opinion to confidently come to the conclusion that at the material time the balance of her mind was significantly affected by a severe mental illness and therefore how could she be found guilty of murder?
To most people, acceptance of a guilty plea to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and a Hospital Restriction Order would seem much more appropriate. But instead, astonishingly in my view, a jury convicted her of murder and the judge in summing up is reported as saying 'she should take full responsibility for her actions' and gave her a tariff of 37 years.
The saddest and most worrying aspect of this case in my view is that in all probability she will at some point be transferred from prison to Special Hospital due to her psychiatric state. She needed treatment all along and if she had been dealt with correctly, a life would have been spared and another wouldn't now 'be doing life.'