Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

Rape case 'quick verdict' quashed

Lord Dawson
Lord Dawson, who directed the jury in Mr Dyer's trial, has since died

A man's rape conviction has been quashed after the trial judge was found to have put jurors under pressure to return a quick verdict.

Michael Dyer, 44, was found guilty at the High court in Glasgow in 2006 of raping a 15-year-old girl in the city.

Lord Dawson, who has since died, told the jury that he did not imagine that summing up would take very long.

Judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Dyer was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Jurors took just 28 minutes to find Mr Dyer guilty of raping the teenager, while she was under the influence of drink and drugs, at a house in the city's Knightswood area in August 2004.

He had admitted having sex with her, but lodged a special defence that she had consented.

Appeal judges heard that after evidence in the case Lord Dawson told the jury that they would be addressed by the Crown and defence and said: "I don't imagine it will take very long.

'Short case'

"We've only had six witnesses in this case, a very short case. I don't suppose speeches will last more than, certainly within the hour anyway.

"I'll charge you as to the law and you should get out and consider your verdict before luncheon."

Mr Dyer's defence counsel, Geoff Forbes, said he would not be able to keep to the judge's timetable and would speak for about 45 minutes.

But Lord Dawson told him: "I don't think so Mr Forbes, it's a very short case. Just try and limit your remarks if you would."

The opportunity for a jury to take as long as they wish to undertake a full discussion of the evidence before them lies at the heart of our system of trial by jury
Lord Hamilton
When Mr Forbes delivered his address to the jury it did last for about 45 minutes.

The defence counsel told the appeal court that he had felt pressure was being put on him by the judge over the time he should take in speaking to jurors.

He said had never come across that before and resisted it.

Lord Dawson also told jurors: "There is no need for you to try and persuade each other to any particular point of view, you have your own point of view and the voting system is what you ought to (operate) to see what your verdict is going to be."

The judge told them he could take their verdict any time but added: "You can take as long or as short a time as you feel appropriate."

The appeal court heard that after Mr Dyer's conviction Lord Dawson told him: "I regard your behaviour as predatory. I consider you to be a danger to the female sex."

He jailed him for five years and ordered he should be kept under supervision for a further three years.

'Under pressure'

Mr Dyer appealed against his conviction claiming that because of comments by Lord Dawson a member of the jury at his trial would have thought there was time pressure to reach a verdict quickly.

It was also said the judge had misdirected the jurors in legal directions he gave them.

The Lord Justice General, Lord Hamilton, who heard the appeal with Lord Osborne and Lord Mackay, said they agreed that jury members could have draw an inference from the trial judge's comments that the issues were straightforward and "could be quickly and easily resolved".

He said: "Had the jurors drawn such an inference, there would have been a risk that they might have felt under pressure to reach their verdict quickly."

They said one comment by Lord Dawson "was calculated to create the impression that all the jurors required to do was to vote on their verdict and there was no need for them to discuss the evidence".

Lord Hamilton said: "The opportunity for a jury to take as long as they wish to undertake a full discussion of the evidence before them lies at the heart of our system of trial by jury."

The Lord Justice General said that when a misdirection over evidence was linked to Lord Dawson's remarks the appeal judges were satisfied that they constituted a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Dyer remains in custody and the appeal court may substitute a conviction for unlawful sexual intercourse, although the Crown asked for time to consider whether it should seek a re-trial on the rape charge.

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