A JURY foreman caused a five-week trial into the kidnap of a Hampshire businessman to collapse when he began conducting his own research into one of the defendants.

Alan Frankcom researched the financial background of Eastleigh gym boss Daniel Harkins, who was on trial with his “gang” of five over the kidnap of businessman Richard Baker.

Following a five-week trial, jury members were sent out to decide the fate of the six men.

But Frankcom began conducting his own research into the financial background of Harkins – something which jury members are banned from doing during a trial.

The 51-year-old told a fellow jury member about his research and trial judge Peter Henry disbanded the jury and collapsed the trial.

Judge Henry also informed the country’s top legal advisor, the Attorney General, sparking an investigation.

Yesterday, Frankcom was given a suspended prison sentence during an appearance at Southampton Crown Court.

He was also criticised by Judge Christopher Parker QC, who described his actions as “arrogant”.

Prosecutor David Reid told the court how Frankcom carried out the research during the deliberation stage of the trial at the end of November last year.

Mr Reid said the father-of-two used Google to access Companies House, where he attempted to find financial records relating to Harkins.

Once discovered, he was questioned by Judge Henry and admitted carrying out research.

He also admitted his actions in a police interview.

Frankcom, of Lymington Road, Lymington, was subsequently charged and pleaded guilty to carrying out research during a trial period – an offence under the Juries Act.

Mitigating, Chris Gaiger said Frankcom had “undermined the integrity of the criminal justice system” and his actions had crossed the custody threshold.

But he said Frankcom had previously been a man of good character and shared references describing him as a “family man” and “a rock” for his wheelchair-bound wife.

Judge Parker sentenced Frankcom to four months imprisonment, which he suspended for 18 months.

He also ordered Frankcom carry out 240 hours unpaid work, pay £535 in costs and £4,200 compensation to the Crown Prosecution Service for the collapse of the trial.

Judge Parker said: "Trial by jury, an independent jury, on evidenced permitted in court and nothing else is regarded by many as the cornerstone for our society, akin to free elections and a free press.

"Such cases as this are serious because the validity of trial by jury relies on the principles of jury members and the expectation they will try the case only on the evidence which has been properly submitted.

“It is very unfortunate you should end up here having carried out your public service, but you know now, if you didn’t before, how serious the oath is taken by the jury service and by the courts.”

Daniel Harkins, of Sherborne Road, Eastleigh; Jamie Kingston, of Paynes Road, Shirley; Leroy King, of Dutton Lane, Eastleigh; Rodney Traves, of Croydon Close, Southampton; Peter Chamberlain, of Chaucer Road, Southampton and Alan Boddy, of Goldingham Drive, Essex, all admitted kidnapping Richard Baker as well as conspiracy to falsely imprison part way through a retrial.

They were jailed for a total of 43 years.

Winchester Crown Court heard how they took Mr Baker from his premises in West End as they were on a mission to find two people they believed were connected to an arson at Samson’s Gym – owned by Harkins.

They went after Mr Baker, as they believed he had the telephone number of a man connected to the arson.

The court heard that as well as being punched, a screwdriver was put up his nose.

Judge Henry sentenced Harkins to nine years for his role as the “ringleader”, “right-hand man” Kingston was given eight years, while King and Chamberlain received seven years.

Boddy and Traves were sentenced to six years.