Published: 13:05, 11 June 2021
| Updated: 15:16, 11 June 2021
The foreman of a jury in a serious sex case used Google for research in the middle of the trial and messaged a victim on Facebook.
HGV driver Geoffrey Lelean, 60, was on a jury deciding the guilt or innocence of an elderly man during a trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
But before the sentencing, Lelean contacted one of the victims via Facebook who then showed the message to his mother.
Defence barrister Danny Moore told Maidstone Crown Court that he had wanted to bring comfort to the victims.
But Judge Philip Statman said: "That is an unnecessary crossing of the boundary!"
He said that the only reason Lelean wasn't going straight to prison was because of the delay in bringing the case to court.
Instead, he received a four-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £1,200 in costs.
Judge Statman told the father of two that sitting on a jury is the most important civic duty that can be performed by a citizen.
He said: "At the start of any trial, the jurors read through a document about the rules and what happens if rules are broken
"To disobey such criminal rules can lead someone to be punished by jail and/or a fine.
"This is a grave offence and you will never be allowed to sit on a jury ever again."
The victim's mother spoke with a police officer and Lelean's laptop was investigated.
Lelean, of Featherby Road, Gillingham admitted three charges of doing "jury research" in breach of the 1974 Juries Act - which carry a maximum two-year jail sentence.
'That is an unnecessary crossing of the boundary...'
Prosecutor Iestyn Morgan said computer checks revealed that Lelean had checked Facebook in search of the victim and Googled details of the defendant's previous sentence for earlier offences dating back to 1999.
Mr Morgan said the search was fruitless and when the jury returned days later they convicted the defendant on the final two of nine offences.
He said that no appeals have been made since the sentencing in 2019.
The judge said that all jurors are given a form to read before each trial stressing they are banned from seeking evidence outside that which is presented during a trial, including using Google for research into anything to do with the case.
Mr Moore said Lelean was the foreman in the "emotionally charged" sex case involving nine offences of sex assault on two boys.
He added that although he searched for details regarding one of the victims, the Facebook message wasn't sent until after the jury had returned the final two guilty verdicts.
Mr Moore said a police officer carried out a similar check on Google but also found nothing which could have been shared with other jurors.
He said Lelean was motivated to bring comfort to the victim and none of his research was conveyed to other jurors.
The judge heard that the case had taken 21 months to come to court partially because it required approval from the Attorney General to bring charges.