Only a week or so ago I warned about chattering about court cases on social media sites. Mad really, given how much I like to chatter myself.
But there’s chatter – and there’s chatter. Talking about a court case when you’ve little knowledge of how our judicial system works is very dangerous. Doing the same if you are a juror in a court case is a complete no-no.
Gossiping about a court case in this way can lead to a trial collapsing – as it has in this case – and then there may be a re-trial. Or people who are potentially guilty of a crime may get off on a technicality. That’s not in anybody’s public interest. And there’s the waste of time and money by police, court staff, lawyers.
And now it’s been proved. A woman jailed for eight months for contempt of court when she had an online conversation with another woman who’d been acquitted earlier in the same trial.
This juror’s chatter, which was about her fellow jurors and their deliberations, has now cost her dear. Gossip gone mad. But even had she not mentioned the case at all, just the mere connection with someone involved in the case might have been enough.
What this case shows to me is that the internet is not immune to UK law.
The judge looked at the motivation and actions of the individual – not at where she expressed her views or comments. The same effect would have come about if she’d published a letter in The News of the World.
The question for me is – how can this be avoided in the future? Can it be avoided?
Is our use of the internet now so powerful and pervasive that we cannot help but interact on line?
The BBC correspondent covering the case did suggest that we might have to consider being more relaxed about our court cases, as they are in America where journalists (everyone in fact) has much more freedom to speak out.
And how many times has this happened and the chatter has never reached a ears of a judge or jury or magistrate? I bet it’s a few, maybe a lot.
I find this whole issue fascinating. But it’s not one I’ll be testing out myself. I don’t fancy spending eight months in jail – or even the four months she’ll actually do if she behaves herself.
Wonder if she’ll tell us about her experience on Facebook? What’s her name again?…..