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  1. ITV Report

Judge warns on bullying as two jurors discharged in parachute trial

Emile Cilliers is accused of two counts of attempting to murder Victoria Cilliers while having two affairs. Photo: ITV News

The judge in the trial of an Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute has advised the jurors to ensure there is no "bullying" between them as he discharged two members for ill-health.

The nine women and three men on the jury have been deliberating for about 23-and-a-half hours since last Tuesday in the trial of Emile Cilliers at Winchester Crown Court which started more than seven weeks ago.

However, about 90 minutes after the judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, gave a direction on Tuesday this week to the jury saying that he would accept majority verdicts, one of the jurors became ill.

Then on Wednesday morning, the forewoman of the jury became ill and Mr Justice Sweeney has now discharged the two female jurors after receiving medical certificates.

Jury service is not easy; it never has been. It involves a major civic responsibility. By their very nature some trials require jurors to address deeply sensitive human problems, and some discussions may be fierce or tempestuous, with powerful arguments and counter-arguments.

In such cases, discussions by their nature will be exhausting. However, and obviously, all must remain within the proper bounds of discussion, and not amount to improper pressure or bullying.

Each member of the jury has equal responsibility for the verdicts, and whilst it is perhaps inevitable that different views will be expressed about different features of the case, confidence in the jury system ultimately depends upon the fact that there is mutual respect amongst members of the jury, and reasonable give and take between them, with an opportunity for each to be heard, and his or her opinions listened to respectfully and attentively, and then reasonably considered by all.

– Justice Sweeney said this to the jurors

Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, is accused of two counts of attempting to murder Victoria Cilliers while having two affairs.

Mrs Cilliers, a highly-experienced parachuting instructor, suffered near-fatal injuries when she took part in a jump at the Army Parachute Association at Netheravon, Wiltshire, on Easter Sunday, April 5 2015.

Cilliers, 37, is accused of sabotaging her main and reserve parachute and a few days earlier tampering with a gas valve at the family home in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

The defendant denies two counts of attempted murder and one of criminal damage to the gas valve recklessly endangering life.

Cilliers denies the charges against him and suggested in court that a "stranger" may have tampered with his wife's parachute and denied tampering with the gas fitting.