Jurors Could Face Prison Under New Contempt of Court Crime

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The Law Commissioner has stated that Jurors who carry out online research about the case(s) they are sitting should face imprisonment. The Commissioner’s call comes after a number of jurors have recently been jailed after researching for addition evidence to what was presented to them during their case.

Current laws state that anyone who publishes details or information online that poses a substantial risk of seriously prejudicing a trial can be fined or imprisoned if the content is not removed once criminal proceedings become active.

A Law Commission spokesman said: “The Commission’s recommendations will also help to clarify for jurors what they can expect if they do search for information on the trial.

“Jurors accused of this form of contempt are currently tried in an unusual procedure in the Divisional Court.

“Under the Commission’s recommendations, jurors who search for information in this way would be committing a criminal offence and be tried in the Crown Court in the usual way.”

In response to the Law Commission statement the justice minister, Damian Green, said: “Technology and the wealth of information available to us all at the touch of a button has changed the way we live. It’s right that we look at the impact this has on our laws and make any changes where necessary. We welcome the Law Commission report on this important, and highly relevant, issue. We will respond formally in due course.”

Earlier this year an article by Professor Thomas found that 23% of jurors questioned were “confused about the rule on internet use” and a further 62% had not heard of the recent prosecutions of jurors for misconduct. 6% also admitted to looking up legal definitions.

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