Judges want tougher line to stop jurors using internet to research cases or post messages during trials
Jurors who use social-networking sites and the internet during a trial could face up to two years in jail, the UK’s top judge has warned.
Speaking at the Judicial Studies Board in Belfast, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, also said if this issue wasn’t dealt with it could lead to the end of the jury system.
“The misuse of the internet represents a threat to the jury system which depends on evidence provided in court which the defendant can challenge. We seem ... to assume that the occasions when jurors go to the internet for information are rare.
"It is therefore easy to brush them aside as odd moments of aberration. I wonder whether we will still be thinking that in a year or two,” he said.
Lord Judge was addressing concerns raised earlier by Lord Mcdonald that some people were misusing the internet while on jury service; going online to look for further information that could potentially be misleading or false, or posting messages about trials on sites such as Twitter.
One such case was reported by The Sun earlier this year. Although jurors are not meant to discuss a case outside of the jury room, a 29-year-old woman juror discussed whether the jury thought the defendant was guilty or not in messages sent via her mobile phone to Facebook.
Calling for tougher warnings to be given to jurors, Lord Judge asked if tweets and online messages sent from a courtroom should be banned under the Contempt of Court Act. He pointed out that tape recordings already were.
If online messages are banned under law, a juror found guilty of this, could be punished by up to two years' imprisonment.
“Why is Twitter any different? This question has yet to be decided, and the decision may have a considerable impact on our processes,” said Lord Judge.
He also pointed out that failing to address this issue could lead to more mistrials resulting in huge financial costs, delays and emotional trauma for witnesses, victims and defendants.
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