Effective from April 2015, section 74 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 repealed section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 in England and introduced a new set of rules regarding disclosures made by jurors. The provision introduced the new rules into the Juries Act 1974. They do not legitimise ‘public interest’ disclosures by jurors to journalists or otherwise to the public. Rather, they reiterate the pre-existing rules and in addition extend the available defences so as to allow for disclosure of inappropriate jury conduct to the police after trials have reached their conclusion.
Section 20D(1) of the 1974 Act now provides that it is an offence for a person intentionally either ‘to disclose information about statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of a jury in the course of their deliberations’ or ‘to solicit or obtain such information’. This offence is subject to exceptions set out in sections 20E to 20G.
Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 was enacted following publication in the New Statesman magazine of details of the jury deliberations at the trial of Jeremy Thorpe. The publishers had been prosecuted, but acquitted, under the pre-existing common law of contempt.