DIFFERENCE of opinion among jury members are common place as today's majority verdicts simply illustrate but a unique factor emerged at the Hampshire Winter Assizes of 1860 when 11 agreed on one verdict and the other dissented.

Eventually the reason why emerged - he was deaf!

The panel returned to the court and asked Mr Justice Williams for guidance.

Having identified himself, William Hill, who lived at Stoneham on the fringe of Southampton, was asked if he would have heard the evidence if he had been sitting nearer the witness box.

"Yes, My Lord," he replied. "I heard one portion of the evidence but imperfectly and I could not catch the whole of your remarks when you summed up the case."

Prosecutor Mr Cooke suggested a substitute should be sworn and the testimony read over to him. The judge agreed had Hill been entirely deaf.

He ruled that as the two defendants, Michael Gettins, 18 and Thomas Hines, 21, had been put in charge of the jury, Hill must move to another seat in the jury box and the evidence read over to him.

However, the judge, mindful how potential jurors invented excuses from attending courts, asked Hill pointedly: "Do I trust this is not because you want to attend Romsey fair?"

Hill replied adamantly: "Of course not. It is because I very imperfectly heard all the witnesses."

The judge, infuriated by the inconvenience and waste of money, icily commented: "It is a great pity you had not mentioned this before."

All the witnesses were then directed to return to the court room while the clerk read their evidence over to Hill and the other jury men.

Gettings and Hines had been accused of a night burglary on B canteen kept by Thomas Budden at the Aldershot army camp where they were stationed and stealing from him a silver watch and cash amounting to about £5.

The pair were trapped after a sergeant searched the prisoners and discovered on Hines incriminating bags of coppers which had been stored in the canteen, and they were jailed for 12 months.