Misuse of Internet by jurors could kill jury system, warns UK’s most senior judge

Saturday, November 20, 2010

LONDON - The jury system might “not survive” if tweeting and the misuse of the Internet by jurors is not stopped, according to the most senior judge in England and Wales.

The BBC quoted Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, as saying: “If the jury system is to survive as the system for a fair trial… the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop.”

Expressing concern about the jurors’ habit of misusing the Internet, he said that some jurors had used the Internet to research a rape case.

Earlier this year a judge in Manchester had to dismiss a jury and restart a trial, after a juror gave details of a trial on her Facebook account, and asked friends: “Did he do it?”

Lord Judge also said that campaigners often post messages on Twitter to pressurise jurors who might be looking at it, the report said.

“We cannot stop people tweeting, but if jurors look at such material, the risks to the fairness of the trial will be very serious, and ultimately the openness of the trial process on which we all rely, would be damaged,” he said.

“We cannot accept that the use of the Internet, or rather its misuse, should be acknowledged and treated as an in eradicable fact of life, or that a Nelsonian blind eye should be turned to it or the possibility that it is happening,” he added.

Lord Judge further stated that the judged should warn jurors to avoid using Internet to research cases or to give details of cases they are deliberating on. He also said that the notice in jury rooms should be amended to include a warning that such research could be considered as a contempt of court, failing to obey which could lead to sentencing jurors.

He also suggested that sending text messages from court buildings should be banned. (ANI)

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