Juror faces jail for contacting defendant via Facebook

15 Jun 2011

A jury member in the middle of a stg£6m drugs trial in the UK faces up to two years in prison for using Facebook to communicate with one of the defendants.

Juror Joanne Fraill admitted to contacting defendant Jamie Sewart on a personal basis, but now faces up to two years for contempt of court.

It is unlikely, however, that Fraill will be jailed as she has a three-year-old child. Nevertheless, sentencing will take place on Thursday.

The case is believed to be the UK’s first prosecution for contempt of court involving the internet.

Lines of internet and law have been crossed

In recent weeks, the lines have been crossed between internet comment and the legal world, with UK celebrities like footballer Ryan Giggs taking super injunctions to prevent press coverage and discovering that internet users thought differently and posted details on Twitter.

Prior to Giggs’ identity being unveiled unexpectedly in the UK parliament, Twitter was being sued by a footballer after users of the service began tweeting his name in connection with an alleged affair with model Imogen Thomas.

In early May, a high court judge in the UK issued an injunction that explicitly bans the publication of information via Twitter or Facebook.

The judgment was made in the family division of the UK high court by Mr Justice Baker. It was made as part of a case involving a woman named as “M”, who is suffering from swelling of the brain and who has been barely conscious since 2003. Her mother is seeking an order to withdraw medical treatment and allow her to die.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years