By Gavin Allen
Gift gaffe: Matthew Banks (right) was jailed after calling in 'sick' when scheduled for jury duty - he was caught out because his boyfriend Christian Orr (left) told a calling court official Banks was in London for a show
A juror who claimed he was ill during a court case so he could go watch a West End musical with his mother will spend Christmas behind bars.
Matthew Banks, 19, went to see a production of Chicago in London at 5pm on Friday when he should have been in a Manchester court for the fifth day of a trial.
But before the curtain went up on the show, court officials discovered his deception and sent police looking for him.
The Manchester University language student returned to court on Monday when he was sentenced to 14 days at Forest Bank Young Offenders' Institution after admitting contempt of court.
Banks looked stunned as he was led away to start his sentence.
Judge Martin Rudland said Banks' offence was too serious for a suspended jail term because of the frivolous reason for his absence and the lies he told to try and manipulate Manchester Crown Court.
Banks spent last week sitting in the case of a thug who ran over his girlfriend with a car but did not tell the court he had pre-booked tickets for a show at the outset of the trial.
The case had reached its summing up stage - where the judge reviews the evidence for the jury - when the teenager rang court saying he had been throwing up all night.
British justice? Banks' mother Debbie Ennis has vowed to appeal her son's jail term, calling it 'ludicrous'
His absence meant the other eleven jurors had to go home.
His deception was discovered when Judge Rudland asked court officials to contact Banks to see if he would be fit for court after the weekend.
When the official rang Banks' home, his boyfriend said he was not there because he had 'gone to London to see a show'.
After police went to interview the boyfriend, Banks rang the court again claiming that he was recovering at his mother's home in Staffordshire. In reality, he was heading for a 5pm performance of Chicago at London's Garrick Theatre.
Banks was ordered to attend court on Monday and admitted what he had done.
Judge Rudland told him: 'It’s a huge sadness and disappointment for me to see you sitting in the dock when for the last week I have seen you sitting in the jury box.
Christmas present: Banks went to see Chicago at the Garrick Theatre in the West End with his mother
'It’s with a heavy heart I come to the conclusion that custody it must be.'
Banks' mother has vowed to do everything she can to get her son freed for Christmas.
Debbie Ennis fears he will have to serve the full 14-day sentence and has vowed to take his case to the highest court in the land.
She said: 'It’s ludicrous. I do not understand what the judge was trying to achieve by putting him behind bars.'
Ms Ennis, who described her son is quiet and shy, says she is worried about his mental state.
She had tried to convince him not to do the jury service because he had since moving o Manchester to study French he had not settled.
The 49-year-old, from Rugeley, Staffordshire, said: 'I asked him not to do it, he only moved to Manchester in September, hasn’t settled well and has been feeling lonely, but he felt it was his duty.
Chorus line: Banks refused to attend the final crucial days of a trial because he wanted to watch Chicago's tale of femme fatale Roxie Hart
'He’s a naive 19-year-old and when he told me what happened, we told him to hold his hands up and apologise, because we trusted the British justice system.
'It stinks. He wanted a career in the government but he's got a criminal record now. We thought he’d get a slap on the wrists.'
Banks’ boyfriend of one year, Christian Orr, said he bought Banks the tickets to the musical as a Christmas present.
They were supposed to go together but he could not get time off work.
Orr, 23, said: 'Whenever he gets something on his mind he stops eating. He keeps himself to himself and wouldn’t hurt a fly.
'He’s smart and career-focussed but he’s got a criminal record now. I think it’s a disgrace.'
Banks had been sitting on the case of Jamie Taylor.
The case continued with 11 jurors, who reached a verdict on the case after Banks had been jailed.
Taylor, 23, of Droylsden, Manchester, was found guilty of assault, aggravated vehicle taking and driving offences, and jailed for three years.
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Juror jailed for Christmas after phoning in sick and halting trial... so he could go and watch musical CHICAGO
By Gavin Allen