Facebook juror trial shows contempt in other ways
时间：2019-11-01 责任编辑：应恙寡 来源：365体育投注 - 首页√ 点击：159 次
What's so disturbing about the on Tuesday for contacting an acquitted defendant on Facebook is the insight it gives us into a system that the public have trusted for so many years.
Joanne Fraill may go to prison for communicating with the defendant, Jamie Sewart, if the lord chief justice believes he needs to deter other jurors from treating the courts with contempt in the future.
But, in kicking aside the stone that normally blocks entry to the jury's retiring room, Fraill has allowed something rather unsavoury to crawl out.
Even though Fraill used a pen-name and Sewart said she had deleted their online exchanges, a was before the court. Instant messaging is not the most precise form of English but there were two comments by Fraill that were clear enough to alarm supporters of the jury system.
"All that note taking was just killing time," she told Sewart. "Drew more than I wrote."
by Professor Cheryl Thomas suggests that most jurors take their responsibilities seriously. So does anecdotal evidence: I interviewed two jurors recently for the BBC's – not about their deliberations, which I am not allowed to do – and it was clear that they had treated jury service as a privilege not to be squandered.
But if Fraill was really taking notes of the evidence as a way of killing time – and if she was sketching rather than writing – she cannot have been paying very much attention to the issues she was being asked to decide.
Of course, jurors are not required to take notes. If anything, the courts tend to discourage it, preferring the jury to listen rather than write.
And, since pretty well anybody can serve on a jury, there must be plenty of jurors who don't really understand what is going on and simply vote with the majority.
But what supporters of the jury system don't want to hear is that there are jurors who ignore judges' directions to try cases on the evidence before them.
The phenomenon is not unique to the internet age: in 1993, a after the jury – who'd been drinking at the hotel to which they had been sent overnight – was found to have asked a home-made ouija board whether the defendant, Stephen Young, was guilty of two murders. Since "ouija" means "yes-yes", Young might well have felt that he did not receive a fair trial.
One of the issues senior judges are now considering is whether criminal trials should be opened to Twitter and . Both could increase public knowledge and understanding of the judicial process, clearly a desirable aim. But they also risk prejudicing trials by allowing jurors access to information that may not be admissible in evidence.
The options are stark. We must either take a more robust approach to jury trial, recognising that, even though jurors can no longer be relied on to observe the oath they take at the start of every trial, they must be retained as the "mini-parliaments" that Lord Devlin once called them. Or we must recognise that jury trial is no longer suited to the modern age, a view long held by respected commentators including .
Successive governments have found attempts to restrict jury trial massively unpopular. Ministers can only look enviously at the time and therefore money that would be saved if cases currently heard by juries were tried by judge alone. There would be the added advantage of a reasoned judgment that could be challenged on appeal.
The vast majority of criminal cases are, of course, tried without a jury. True, most of those are tried by lay magistrates, who are comparable in some ways to juries. But an increasing number of summary cases are tried by : full-time professionals who sit alone.
I am certainly not calling for the end of jury trial or even restrictions on its availability. But just imagine you were charged with an offence of dishonesty that, if proved, would bring your career to an end.
Whom would you prefer to be judged by – a highly trained, publicly accountable circuit judge? Or 12 people like Joanne Fraill?