A juror who allegedly contacted a defendant through Facebook during a trial could face jail for contempt of court.
Attorney general Dominic Grieve QC has applied to the High Court for permission to pursue contempt proceedings against juror Joanne Maria Fraill, who is alleged to have contacted acquitted defendant Jamie Sewart during a 10-week drugs trial, while the jury had still to reach verdicts on other defendants.
Grieve said the jury in the trial, which had almost reached its conclusion, had to be discharged because of Fraill’s action.
A statement by Grieve said: ‘Ms Fraill contacted Ms Sewart via the internet and conducted an online conversation with her… That conduct and discussion were in direct breach of the judge’s repeated directions to the jury that they should not discuss the case with anyone outside their number, and constituted a contempt of court.’
Grieve said Fraill had also conducted internet searches on the defendants in the case.
Sewart also faces contempt of court proceedings because she is alleged to have asked Fraill for details of the jury’s deliberations in relation to a count they were still considering.
In a speech last November, lord chief justice Igor Judge warned that misuse of the internet posed a threat to the integrity of the jury system.
He said: ‘If the jury system is to survive…the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop.’
Chair of the Criminal Bar Association Chris Kinch QC said: ‘It’s down to judges at the beginning of cases to be more explicit in their directions to the jury.
'They should make reference to social media such as Facebook and explain why jurors must not use it and the consequences for them and the trial if they do.’