Silence please: A Facebook contempt of court – allegedly

28 April 2011 by

A juror has found herself facing contempt of court charges, it being alleged that she communicated on Facebook with a defendant who had already been acquitted.

These types of proceedings can have human rights implications in two ways: Article 6, providing the right to a fair trial can be infringed upon by improper communicaton by jurors, and to a lesser extent, Article 10, which provides the right to freedom of expression may be engaged. As Article 10 includes a large number of circumstances where freedom of expression may be lawfully restricted, raising freedom of expression arguments to challenge the bringing of contempt proceedings would be very unlikely to succeed in these circumstances.

The juror, Joanne Fraill, was a member of a jury in a large and complex drugs case. She is alleged to have used Facebook to contact a person who had already been acquitted in the trial, while the jury was still considering verdicts in relation to the other defendants. She is also accused of having used the internet to do research relating to the trial. The acquitted defendant, Jamie Sewart, is also facing contempt proceedings, being accused of soliciting information from Ms Fraill about the jury’s deliberations while it was still considering verdicts in relation to some defendants.

The Attorney General has recently been granted permission to bring contempt proceedings against Ms Fraill and Ms Sewart on the basis of these allegations. The common law provides that deliberations of a jury must remain confidential: for instance, see Lord Hope’s comments at paragraph 94-107 on R v Mirza [1998] 1 AC 1118. Section 8(1) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 provides,

… it is a contempt of court to obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by members of the jury in the course of their deliberations in any legal proceedings.

These proceedings are at an early stage, but they highlight the growing problems in preventing juries from conducting their own research and communicating in ways which might improperly influence their decisions in an age of instant electronic communication and when a vast amount of personal data is publicly available. When such communication comes to light the results can (although will not necessarily) be very costly, with trials collapsing.

Angus McCullough QC is representing the Attorney General in this case. He is not the author of this post. 

Sign up to free human rights updates by email, Facebook, Twitter or RSS

Read more:

2 comments


  1. Tara Davison says:

    In my view we need to strengthen the Contempt of Court Act 1881 because of the internet.

    Particularly with reference to Article 6 the right to a fair trial.

    Google Inc for instance has no policy against serious defamation and content which perverts the course of justice and being a US company they are dismissive about the UK’s Contempt of Court Act and Europe’s Human Rights Laws.

    The internet is not conveniently within the jurisdiction of the UK courts and the issue of protecting the Right to a fair trial and preventing substantial prejudice being done by unfair reporting, comments and articles will need to be addressed.

    Protection is also needed to protect those growing number of people arrested but not charged. Sadly the anonymity (arrested persons) Bill recently failed to get government backing and this category of persons still fail to have the full protection of the Contempt of Court Act.

    We also need clear and firm guidelines, which are well publicised so that people using the internet know what they can and can’t do. This way the unwitting can avoid falling foul of the law and the malicious can be swiftly dealt with.

  2. The Scottish perjury trial of Tommy Sheridan generate a similar issue of a juror on ye olde Book of Faces. Since the splash in the papers in January, I’ve heard no more about it…

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/crime-courts/sheridan-juror-could-face-jail-1.1078830

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the UKHRB


This blog is run by 1 Crown Office Row barristers' chambers. Subscribe for free updates here. The blog's editorial team is:
Commissioning Editor: Jonathan Metzer
Editorial Team: Rosalind English
Angus McCullough QC David Hart QC
Martin Downs
Jim Duffy

Free email updates


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog for free and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Subscribe

Categories


Tags


Aarhus Abortion Abu Qatada Abuse Access to justice adoption AI air pollution air travel ALBA Allergy Al Qaeda Amnesty International animal rights Animals anonymity Article 1 Protocol 1 Article 2 article 3 Article 4 article 5 Article 6 Article 8 Article 9 article 10 Article 11 article 13 Article 14 article 263 TFEU Artificial Intelligence Asbestos Assange assisted suicide asylum asylum seekers Australia autism badgers benefits Bill of Rights biotechnology blogging Bloody Sunday brexit Bribery British Waterways Board Catholic Church Catholicism Chagos Islanders Charter of Fundamental Rights child protection Children children's rights China christianity citizenship civil liberties campaigners civil partnerships climate change clinical negligence closed material procedure Coercion Commission on a Bill of Rights common law communications competition confidentiality consent conservation constitution contact order contact tracing contempt of court Control orders Copyright coronavirus costs costs budgets Court of Protection crime criminal law Cybersecurity Damages data protection death penalty defamation DEFRA deportation deprivation of liberty derogations Detention Dignitas diplomacy disability disclosure Discrimination disease divorce DNA domestic violence duty of care ECHR ECtHR Education election Employment Environment Equality Act Equality Act 2010 Ethiopia EU EU Charter of Fundamental Rights EU costs EU law European Convention on Human Rights European Court of Human Rights European Court of Justice evidence extradition extraordinary rendition Facebook Family Fatal Accidents Fertility FGM Finance foreign criminals foreign office foreign policy France freedom of assembly Freedom of Expression freedom of information freedom of speech Gay marriage gay rights Gaza Gender genetics Germany Google Grenfell Gun Control Health HIV home office Housing HRLA human rights Human Rights Act human rights news Human Rights Watch Huntington's Disease immigration India Indonesia injunction Inquests insurance international law internet inuit Iran Iraq Ireland islam Israel Italy IVF ivory ban Japan joint enterprise judaism judicial review Judicial Review reform Julian Assange jury trial JUSTICE Justice and Security Bill Law Pod UK legal aid legal aid cuts Leveson Inquiry lgbtq liability Libel Liberty Libya lisbon treaty Lithuania local authorities marriage Media and Censorship mental capacity Mental Capacity Act Mental Health military Ministry of Justice modern slavery morocco murder music Muslim nationality national security naturism neuroscience NHS Northern Ireland nuclear challenges Obituary parental rights parliamentary expenses scandal patents Pensions Personal Injury physician assisted death Piracy Plagiarism planning planning system Poland Police Politics Pope press prison Prisoners prisoner votes Prisons privacy Professional Discipline Property proportionality Protection of Freedoms Bill Protest Public/Private public access public authorities public inquiries quarantine Radicalisation rehabilitation Reith Lectures Religion RightsInfo right to die right to family life Right to Privacy right to swim riots Roma Romania Round Up Royals Russia saudi arabia Scotland secrecy secret justice Secret trials sexual offence Sikhism Smoking social media social workers South Africa Spain special advocates Sports Standing starvation statelessness stem cells stop and search Strasbourg super injunctions Supreme Court Supreme Court of Canada surrogacy surveillance Syria Tax technology Terrorism tort Torture travel treason treaty accession trial by jury TTIP Turkey Twitter UK Ukraine universal credit universal jurisdiction unlawful detention USA US Supreme Court vicarious liability Wales War Crimes Wars Welfare Western Sahara Whistleblowing Wikileaks wildlife wind farms WomenInLaw Worboys wrongful birth YearInReview Zimbabwe

Disclaimer


This blog is maintained for information purposes only. It is not intended to be a source of legal advice and must not be relied upon as such. Blog posts reflect the views and opinions of their individual authors, not of chambers as a whole.

Our privacy policy can be found on our ‘subscribe’ page or by clicking here.

%d bloggers like this: