A juror who whipped out his phone during a criminal trial to research a case he was trying, has avoided jail.
Adrian Pirstin, from Iwade near Sittingbourne, carried out an internet probe into elements of the hearing while in the jury-booth at Canterbury Crown Court.
On Thursday, the 39-year-old railroaded the trial for half-a-day, after court staff witnessed his actions, while National Crime Agency officers interrogated his mobile phone.
To be found in contempt of court usually carries a mandatory prison sentence however, the judge instead discharged Pirstin from jury duty with a verbal warning.
Recorder Matthew Turner ruled the “flagrant breach” was owed to Pirstin’s “insufficient grasp” of spoken English.
And he decided to deal with the case informally yesterday as opposed to referring it to the Attorney General, which would have triggered a police investigation and formal charges.
“You got caught and there is some indication in case law that you should be dealt with by an immediate term of imprisonment,” he told Pirstin, who was visibly shaken.
“Now, I am not satisfied you have a sufficient grasp of spoken English to follow sufficiently simple instructions.
“You have ended up wasting half a day of court time and these matters are taken extremely seriously.
“Your phone was inpounded and interrogated by the National Crime Agency and it was discovered that you had been undertaking some research, and that you had communicated by text messages with your wife about this case.”
Pirstin sent his wife a number of text messages, questioning whether the judge himself was a lawyer.
The lorry driver was also trying to dig up information about locations on Google Maps and matters relating to road health and safety on the Continent.
Speaking outside the court, the “shocked” Romanian national apologised for his actions.
“I like to do research and I thought if I could understand some things it would help, and I didn’t understand you couldn’t do research.
“I’ve never been in contact with the police before, the court before, I didn’t understand these rules.
“I really liked being a juror, trying to get into the minds and deciding if someone did it or not, but now I can’t be a juror.
“I am so relieved, I didn’t even sleep last night, I’m still in shock, everything has happened so quickly.”
“I’ve never been in contact with the police before, the court before, I didn’t understand these rules..."
He continued: “I didn’t know what was going on when the trial stopped - in the future I will just leave my phone at home but it’s hard.
“I’m a trader so I need to keep checking.
“I want to say thank you to the judge and I want to apologise to everyone in the court for my actions.
“I get to see my wife and children, not be in jail, and now we are going to the pub.
“I am relieved it is over.”
Those found in contempt can be jailed for up to two years, get a fine, or both.
It is generally seen as some form of disturbance which impedes court functions, with especially strict rules in place for jurors banning them from communicating about the case or discussing it outside the jury room.