Juror surfs for info beyond courtroom – gets 8 months to reflect

The first juror to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet has been sentenced to eight months in jail.

Joanne Fraill, 40, admitted at London’s high court using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in a multimillion-pound drug trial in Manchester last year.

Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, also admitted conducting an internet search into Sewart’s boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still deliberating…

When the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, announced her eight-month sentence, Fraill said “eight months!” and put her head on the table in front of her and cried…

Sentencing Fraill, the judge said in a written ruling: “Her conduct in visiting the internet repeatedly was directly contrary to her oath as a juror, and her contact with the acquitted defendant, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted flagrant breaches of the orders made by the judge for the proper conduct of the trial…”

Knox, Sewart’s 35-year-old partner, is applying for his conviction to be overturned on the basis of alleged jury misconduct. He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of paying a police officer to disclose information on drug dealers…

Fraill admitted emailing Sewart while the jury was still deliberating in the drugs trail in August last year because she felt “empathetic” and saw “considerable parallels” between their lives…

The lord chief justice, discussing the reasons for the sentence in the high court, acknowledged that Fraill was “a woman of good character” and was not involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. But “misuse of the internet by a juror” was always “a most serious irregularity and contempt”.

He warned that a custodial sentence for any juror committing similar contempts “is virtually inevitable”.

He added: “The sentence is intended to ensure the continuing integrity of trial by jury.”

The solicitor general made the relevant point: “Long before social networks, the courts have been in no doubt that discussions inside the jury room must stay there. The internet doesn’t make judges’ warnings not to talk about a case or research it any less important.”

About these ads

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s