Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Retrial ordered for crash couple

Mary Butres and John Nichols
Ms Butres and Mr Nichols denied dangerous driving

A judge has ordered a retrial in a case of causing death by dangerous driving after a juror was overheard making comments judged to be biased.

Mary Butres, 47, and John Nichols, 57, of Lincolnshire, were found guilty in October and jailed for nine and five years. They have been released on bail.

Mark Crompton, 20, and Jodie Brown, 19, of Swinstead, Lincolnshire, were killed on the A1 near Grantham last year.

The comment came to light during a legal challenge over the convictions.

The juror was overheard on a Nottingham tram saying Mr Nichols was "guilty as hell", part way through the trial.

We are acutely conscious of the effect our decision will have on the family of the deceased
Lady Justice Hallett

Both defendants said the juror's words revealed real, or at least apparent, bias on her part and she should have been dismissed from the panel.

Allowing both appeals, Lady Justice Hallett said: "We are driven to the conclusion, and we confess it has been a finely balanced decision, that a fair minded and informed observer would conclude that there was here a real possibility that at least one member of the jury that convicted these two appellants was biased.

Mark Crompton and Jodie Brown
Mark Crompton and Jodie Brown were phoning for help when they were hit

"In those circumstances, these convictions cannot stand," she ruled, sitting with Mr Justice Keith and Judge Henry Globe.

Lady Justice Hallett added: "We should like to add this. We are acutely conscious of the effect our decision will have on the families of the deceased and the injured young man. We know they will dread a retrial."

Ms Butres, 47, of Stamford, Lincs, was jailed for nine years and Mr Nichols, 57, from Carlby, for five years at Nottingham Crown Court last November.

A venue and date for a retrial has not yet been sent but Lady Justice Hallett agreed both should be released on bail.

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