A CROWN court trial had to be restarted after a confused juror “followed the crowd” into a courtroom and sat in on the wrong case.

Experienced Judge Jonathan Seely said he had never seen anything like it in his 30 years working in the courts.

Prosecuting barrister Lori Tucker had concluded her opening address to a jury of seven men and five women at Chelmsford Crown Court.

But there was just one problem - one of the women was never sworn in to serve on the jury panel.

She had been sitting in the pool of jurors, from which panels are drawn, when she followed a group into a courtroom and joined them on the jury bench.

She unwittingly took the place of a missing male juror, a move which went unnoticed by the court staff.

After the red-faced juror realised her mistake and alerted the judge, she was called back into the courtroom alone to discuss what was to be done.

A calm and collected Judge Seely, who was appointed as a circuit judge in 2016, reassured her she had done exactly the right thing in raising the issue as soon as possible.

“Don’t worry, none of us noticed or noted it,” he said.

“The person who should be there for some reason did not head down.

“There were 12 people sworn in as jurors yesterday, you were not one of them.

“There is no question of me discharging you, you’re not on this jury.

“What will happen is we will restart this case with the original jury.

“You can go back into the pool and you will be able to serve on another jury.”

Before she was released, the court ensured the juror had no connection to any of the witnesses and people concerned in the upcoming trial.

She was warned not to discuss what she had heard during the opening of the case with anyone.

Addressing the correct full jury panel, Judge Seely said: “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am not sure in my 30 years working in the courts this has ever happened before.

“The lady who was sitting in your position was, of course, not a member of this jury and simply followed the crowd I suppose.

“I have discussed the situation with counsel and there is no harm and no problem in the sense this was at a very early stage of the case.”