COURT officials have admitted a catalogue of blunders led to a murder trial collapsing after a member of the public took a seat in the jury box.
An investigation into the incident, the first of its kind in Scottish legal history, has found a police officer and a court official wrongly led a man to take a place on the jury.
The man then listened to evidence in the case of Shaniece Dobson, who was accused of murdering her boyfriend Sean Martin by stabbing him at her flat.
When the real juror arrived, the mistake was discovered and the trial at the High Court in Livingston had to be abandoned.
The Scottish Court Service has now issued an official apology to the family of Mr Martin, 21, and changed procedures in light of the error.
Dobson was found guilty of culpable homicide by a second jury and jailed for ten years.
But Mr Martin’s family are angry that the blunder meant his sister Ann, 17, and brother Paul, 15, who witnessed the killing, had to give evidence twice.
His father Thomas, 54, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, said: “We are just not happy with this apology. We should never have been put through this.
“I can’t put into words how hard it is to hear your children have to stand in court twice and give details about how their brother was killed.
“The fact that this is the first time this has ever happened doesn’t help us.
“In front of the first jury my son’s killer was up for murder, but by the second she was found guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.
“Now we will never know what the first jury would have found her guilty of and she may have got more than ten years.”
His mother Angela, 47, said: “Our family have been through enough. And what is just totally unacceptable is because of an avoidable mistake my teenage kids were told that what they had given in evidence didn’t matter the first time round. I think it is ridiculous this was allowed to happen.”
In a letter to Mr Martin’s parents, Joe Moyes, the deputy principal clerk of Justiciary at the Scottish Court Service, blamed the mistake on “an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances”. The trial began on 22 January this year and a jury of 15 was selected at random to hear Dobson’s case.
However, on the second morning of the trial only 14 jurors turned up at a police reception area where they had been told to gather.
As a court official was taking them to the jury room, a potential juror for another trial wrongly turned up at the court and was told by a female police officer to “join the rest of the jurors in the police reception area”.
When the court official returned to the reception he wrongly assumed that the person was the missing juror and escorted the person into the courtroom.
The trial had been running for 15 minutes before the correct juror turned up and the trial was abandoned later that morning.
In the letter, Mr Moyes wrote: “It must be accepted that this was an incident that should never have occurred and steps have been taken to ensure this situation does not happen again.Please accept my humblest apologies for this incident.”
Name checks for all jurors in attendance will now be carried at all future trials at the court.