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Complainant Name:
Mr D Thomas QC and Professor W R Cornish QC

Clauses Noted: 1, 2

Publication: The Times


Mr D Thomas QC and Professor W R Cornish QC complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published a letter from a reader that inaccurately recalled details of a research project into the functioning of juries, which took place in the late 1960s. The complainants, who had conducted the research, pointed out that the letter included several inaccuracies as to the budget, the object and the funding of the project. They had sent a letter to the newspaper correcting aspects of the account, but this had not been published.


The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following letter in the newspaper:

Sir, You published a letter from David McLaren ("Class factors may influence juries' decisions", February 19) recalling his participation as a "sample juror" in research carried out at LSE in the 1960s and what he was told about the research some years later. The research to which he was referring was carried out by ourselves and the late Dr Phil Sealy. Contrary to the recollections of Mr McLaren, the research was not commissioned or funded by the Home Office. It was devised by us, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. It was run on a shoestring budget, with expenditure probably reaching no more than £20,000, rather than the very large figure suggested. The object of the project, which was the first attempt in this country at experimental jury research, was to test a number of hypotheses about the functioning of the jury. The participants' discussions, votes and answers to a questionnaire, which was completed at the end of the process and took 20 minutes, were then analysed.

The participants were asked several questions about the process; however, the matter of class was not addressed in any way by the research. There were problems in presenting some of the data in a rigorous academic format; but aspects of the findings were published in detail in leading journals, notably the Criminal Law Review. These reports were certainly not suppressed by the Home Office, nor did it interfere in any other way in the work we were doing.

Professor W. R. Cornish, QC

D. A. Thomas, QC

Girton, Cambs

Date Published: 25/05/2010

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