Bedford university lecturer may be in contempt of court

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A juror who carried out internet research at home during a trial is waiting to find out if she was in contempt of court.

University of Bedfordshire lecturer Theodora Dallas, 34, appeared at the High Court after government legal advisors launched contempt proceedings.

Dr Dallas told jurors a man on a GBH trial at Luton Crown Court in July had been accused of rape, the court heard.

Three High Court judges will deliver their ruling next week.

The court heard a juror had told an usher that Dr Dallas had carried out internet research while jurors were deliberating their verdict.

The judge investigated and then aborted the trial.

Dr Dallas, who is Greek, said her English was not good and she "misunderstood" the trial judge's instructions.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, bringing the case for the government, told Lord Judge, Lady Justice Hallett and Mr Justice Openshaw that Dr Dallas had impeded the administration of justice.

Dr Dallas, a psychology lecturer at the university based in Luton, said she did not intend to "influence" the jury.

GBH meaning checked

She said she had not "deliberately" ignored instructions but had "misunderstood" the trial judge's directions.

Lord Judge said the test would be whether Dr Dallas had "deliberately disobeyed" directions, creating a "risk of prejudice".

"It is very difficult to see how it can be contempt unless it is deliberate," he said.

The trial judge told the jury to base decisions about the man accused of grievous bodily harm with intent on the evidence presented, and warned them not to use the internet or discuss the case with others.

Dr Dallas had revealed to jurors that he had previously been accused, and acquitted, of rape - information not given during the trial, the court heard.

The man was re-tried in October, convicted and jailed, the Attorney General said.

Dr Dallas checked the meaning of grievous bodily harm on the internet and added the word "Luton" and this brought to light the rape accusation from a local newspaper's website.

In a written statement Dr Dallas said: "Sometimes my grasp of English is not that good. I did not understand that I could make no search on the internet."

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