Senior Solicitor Escapes Disbarment Despite Collapsing £80,000 Child Sex Abuse Trial with Unauthorized Research as Juror

Legal Professional Evades Disbarment Despite Catastrophic Impact on £80,000 Child Sex Abuse Trial

Caroline Mitchell, a senior solicitor who triggered the collapse of an £80,000 child sex abuse trial due to unauthorized research as a juror, has managed to avoid being struck off from the legal profession.

Mitchell, aged 56, faced severe consequences in 2022, including a two-month jail term and an eight-year ban from practicing law, following her “extremely serious” misconduct.

Trial Collapse Resulting from Misconduct

The incident unfolded during Mitchell’s service as a juror in a child sex abuse trial at York Crown Court in March 2021.

The trial faced complications related to whether the complainant had a separate bedroom or shared it with a sibling.

Despite strict instructions against external research, Mitchell, with almost 30 years of experience, used her iPad to explore Rightmove house plans and shared her findings with fellow jurors.

This led to the abandonment of the entire trial at a substantial cost of £80,000.

Disciplinary Tribunal and Eight-Year Suspension

Following a hearing at the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, Mitchell, a former associate at Irwin Mitchell, received an eight-year suspension from legal practice and was ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

The tribunal noted that Mitchell’s actions, driven by an apparent investment in the case, caused significant harm to the profession’s reputation and the trial’s witnesses.

Impact on Trial Participants and Extended Wait for a New Trial

The repercussions of Mitchell’s misconduct were felt by both the complainant and defendant, who had to endure an additional eight-month wait for a new trial.

They were compelled to provide testimony once again, subjecting them to further trauma and distress.

Acknowledgment of Wrongdoing and Tribunal Decision

In December 2021, Mitchell admitted the offense at Leeds Crown Court and served a four-week prison term.

Addressing the tribunal, she expressed remorse, acknowledging the wrongful nature of her conduct.

The tribunal recognized the seriousness of the misconduct but opted not to strike Mitchell off the Roll, deeming an eight-year ban as an appropriate and proportionate response.

This decision also disqualified her from jury service for ten years.

Tribunal’s Assessment of the Misconduct

The tribunal concluded that Mitchell’s actions, while extremely serious and causing significant harm, did not warrant disbarment.

Despite acknowledging the gravity of the misconduct, the tribunal believed that an eight-year ban was a fitting response, considering the underlying conduct leading to her disqualification from jury service for a decade.

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