Editorial: Juries and the internet: Justice online
Posted in: Legal, Privacy & Security at 03/01/2011 19:55
Most of us check people out online some time or other: it satisfies our curiosity and can be a reasonable precaution. How tempting, then, must it be for jurors to search for more information about the individual in the dock? The judge may have told them not to, but they want to know as much as possible about the accused before deciding whether to convict.
So it was surprising when the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, said recently that "of course a jury can be trusted not to research a case on the internet as directed". Indeed, a report for the Ministry of Justice last February found that 12% of jurors in high-profile cases admitted doing exactly that, and a further 26% said they had come across media reports online during the trial - a possibility Mr Grieve said did concern him, particularly when these reports were discussed on social networking sites by people ignorant or heedless of the law on contempt of court. Those figures, the report's author suggested, were probably an underestimate.