The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has expressed concern that jury trial is at risk because jurors are researching cases online and tweeting information about cases they are deciding.
Jurors have twin duties to decide the case on the evidence heard in court alone and not to discuss the case with others. Breach of such duties expose them to the judge making a contempt of court ruling which can ultimately be enforced by imprisonment. But even apart from difficulties of proof generally that a particular juror has broken his oath, there are other difficulties: what if a juror unwittingly receives a tweet about a Defendant’s recent convictions which are not admissible as evidence for instance? There may not be contempt but in such circumstances the trial should be stopped. These are tricky problems for the exercise of ‘blind justice’ in the information age.
Kerseys no longer carry on criminal trials (in rare circumstances where our clients face such a prospect, we have good links with a reputable local firm). The right to jury trial for civil cases has now largely been abolished except in rare cases such as libel and even then the judge may order the case to proceed without a jury.
The first in our Legal Eagle series is about how juries can be influenced by what they may see or hear on the Internet. Is it damaging the justice system?