MEMBERS of a murder trial jury have been praised for their role at one of the first cases to be heard for six months.

Trent Hutchinson was found guilty of murder by stabbing best friend Ollie Wells, 18, to death in Newhaven in January.

The 17-year-old was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum term of 14 years for the killing.

Seven men and five women were in the jury who tried the case at Hove Crown Court.

Jury trials had been suspended at the end of March over fears of social distancing, and extra screens and rooms had to be found to allow jury trials to resume earlier this month.

Now judges and barristers are working through the backlog at the two courts available for jury trials.

Sarah Jones QC, prosecuting, told the jury: “You may wonder why, in the midst of a pandemic, why have you been summoned to come and do your public duty with such wide ranging consequences for the families of Ollie Wells and Trent Hutchinson.

“But having listened to the evidence as carefully and as closely as you have, you might think it would be a terrible loss if the jury is put out to pasture and the facts are decided by professionals.”

“We need people less used, and less hardened to the tragedies that come before our courts.”

“Rather we need people who more regularly find themselves in situations which continue to go wrong and have to talk to diffuse it. Experience like that, of relationships, having the common sense we do, living different lives.

The collective of 12 can all bring much from what you have heard to reach a verdict that means every one of you can feel pride in the criminal justice system, an open-minded hearing of the evidence.”

Judge Jeremy Gold QC told the jurors their safety was paramount during the case. At the end he said: “Thank you very much indeed for your help in this case.

“This was the first trial conducted here for many months due to Covid-19 restrictions, under rather different circumstances than it would have been otherwise.”

“We have the traditional jury trial in this country that goes back centuries. It has always been a fabric of democratic society.

“It is one of the few opportunities we have got as individuals to take part in the democratic process.

“I don’t know your view as to what it would be like and indeed whether it would happen at all when you received the summons in the middle of this Covid-19 crisis.

She added: “You have listened with great care in what has been, on any showing, a very distressing case.”