A solicitor who caused a child sexual abuse case at York Crown Court to collapse has been suspended as a lawyer.

Caroline Mitchell, 55, has already served a two-month prison sentence and been given a criminal conviction for her actions in March 2021 when sitting as a member of a jury.

She had been a senior lawyer in a national firm where she had spent her entire professional career until being charged with disclosing information to other jurors.

A solicitors' disciplinary tribunal heard that she, with all the other jurors, had been warned by the trial judge and in writing not to do any research on the internet regarding the case.

But she had told other jurors about information she had found during an overnight adjournment on the internet which she thought was relevant to the case they were trying.

She told the tribunal about her actions during the trial: “It was such a big mistake. I am so sorry to have made it. It was so natural for me to do, I didn’t even think. It didn’t even occur to me it was wrong. I was mortified.”

The tribunal heard that the jury had to be discharged, the trial had to be stopped and the complainant, defendant and other witnesses had to give evidence again six months later in front of a different jury. 

Leeds Crown Court heard in April 2022 that her actions had “undermined” justice and cost the taxpayer £30,000. Judge Guy Kearl KC, who sentenced her, said he accepted she had not intended to cause the trial to collapse.

Mitchell, then of North Parade, Clifton, pleaded guilty to disclosing information to jurors.

She also accepted before the tribunal that she had broken the requirements of all solicitors to act with professional integrity, uphold the law and the proper administration of justice and uphold public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession.

The tribunal, in a virtual hearing, found that she had committed the professional breaches and ordered her practising licence to be suspended for eight years, meaning that she cannot work again as a lawyer until December 2031.

The tribunal heard she had not worked as a solicitor since being charged in late 2021.

She told the tribunal after the initial shock of finding herself in New Hall Women’s Prison in Spring 2022 she had started helping other inmates and had made friends.

“It was an incredible experience,” she said. “I went through a lot of self reflection.”

After she was released from prison halfway through her two-month sentence, she had spent her time doing voluntary work for two charities, including one in York, which, she said, knew about her conviction.

The tribunal read character references about her, including a final prison officer's report on her and was told that her barrister in the crown court case and some other lawyers would recommend her as a lawyer to clients.

She said she believed she had plenty still to give the profession and in helping younger lawyers.