Judges criticises staff member after juror's note reveals conversation in Victoria Cilliers case

Shehab Khan
Emile Cilliers is accused of attempting to murder his wife: PA

The judge in the trial of an Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife has criticised a member of court staff for telling jurors "in France he would be guilty until proven innocent".

The case against Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, at Winchester Crown Court was delayed for several hours while the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney was forced to discuss the impact of the conversation held between jurors and the "new and untrained" member of court staff with lawyers.

Mr Cilliers is accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute and Mr Sweeney told the jurors that one of them had produced a note describing the incident which happened within the jury's private room.

The note stated: "During yesterday's conversation in the jurors' room, questions were asked about whether the defendant was in custody during the build-up to the trial.

"The court staff member stated that he was in fact on bail but not allowed to visit Wiltshire except to visit his solicitor. Questions were then asked as to his employment and it was established he was still employed."

The note went on to say that a juror suggested Mr Cilliers might have been "inconvenienced", to which the court worker appeared "shocked" and replied: "If he was tried in France he would be guilty until proven innocent.

“As a jury I feel we are taking this extremely seriously but was personally shocked that a court member would make such a simple mistake."

The jury, made up of nine women and three men, were told by the judge not to discuss the trial with anyone else and only as a group or jurors.

“It was wrong of the member of staff, who is new and untrained, to speak to you about the case. It shouldn't have happened and will not happen again,” Mr Sweeney said. "You must also make sure from your end that it doesn't ever again."

Mr Cilliers, who denies all the allegations, faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria Cilliers, who suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield in April 2015.

He also faces a third charge of damaging a gas valve at their home a few days earlier in the second allegation that he attempted to kill his wife.

Agencies contributed to this report