The Lord Chief Justice gave a speech in Belfast in November 2010 in which he specifically warned jurors about the risks of discussing a case online via social media, saying that it could easily be considered a criminal contempt of court with a possible prison sentence for a breach.
In fact, the Lord Chief Justice’s warning seems to have come too late. In August 2010, Joanne Fraill was a juror in a drugs trial in Manchester. Jamie Sewart was a defendant in that trial who had been acquitted, but the trial was ongoing whilst the jury considered charges against other defendants when Fraill contacted Sewart on Facebook and had a chat online about the trial.
Sewart’s lawyers informed the court about the contact the following day and the case collapsed, with the jury being discharged. The chat included the disclosure by Fraill of details of the jury’s deliberations. Fraill had also looked up another defendant online and researched their background. Both actions went against the judge’s instructions in the trial that jurors should make their decision based solely on the evidence brought in court.
The Attorney General filed brought a case in the High Court against the pair for contempt of court. Sewart has avoided a custodial sentence but Fraill has been sentenced to eight months in prison. She was devastated when she found out, but anyone not abiding by the rules of the court should be warned.