A COURT case was dramatically halted after jurors were accused of not taking it seriously enough.

The bombshell happened after a furious female juror wrote a letter to the judge complaining of the attitude of other people listening to the evidence.

She penned her note at the end of the first day of a trial at Southampton Crown Court in which a local man was accused of a violent attack.

It's thought to be the first time in Hampshire's legal history - and possibly only the second time in the country - that a case has been abandoned because of a lack of attention from the jury.

After the jury was asked to retire for a break, both barristers and the Judge, David Griffiths, discussed the note and the situation.

They were given no option but to dismiss the jurors after deciding that the note must be taken at face value and that the jury had a one-third/two-thirds split in the ranks.

Each member was then put back in a pool and could be chosen at random to sit on other court cases. None of them were told why they had been dismissed or about the letter.

Defence lawyer Francis Chamberlain contended the situation was "irretrievable" and the jury had to be discharged.

"This is not a situation where enquiries can be properly made without eliciting the views of the people on the jury and there is a great risk that the confidentiality of the jury room - even though they have not yet retired - will be compromised.

"We also say a substantial proportion of the jury has not taken this case seriously so far.''

Judge Griffiths said that reflected the view of the juror.

"It may or may not be fair or balanced as far as I know."

Mr Chamberlain submitted that it would be very difficult to go behind the circumstances of the letter.

"They have not - on the face of the matter - been concentrating when important evidence has been given, and the jury member feels worried enough to write a letter about it and feels that the defendant is not getting a fair trial."

He added: "Clearly this juror has had difficulty in concentrating as well. Our concern is that on any view they are incapable of functioning as a jury. There are factions who are clearly not getting on and now we know about this, there is no prospect of them properly and dispassionately discussing this particular case.

"There is a personality clash. Whatever verdict is returned, it would not inspire any confidence."

Prosecutor Scott Stemp was in full agreement. He said: "Whether it is the view of one person or whether it is the reality of the situation, there is a degree of fractionalisation in the jury.

With a split or roughly one-third/two-thirds, he said: "The Crown has real concerns they are not functioning as a jury and they may well have not been paying attention to extremely important evidence in what is a serious case for all concerned.''

The judge then called the jury into court and discharged them. No further action was taken.

The astonishing scene at the city crown court arose last month but it is only today that the Daily Echo has been allowed to report what happened. But under an order, we are neither allowed to reveal the circumstances behind the case, nor the names of those involved.

A re-trial has been ordered and the defendant had bail renewed.