A juror who contacted a defendant through the social networking website Facebook and caused a multi-million dollar case to collapse, has been jailed for eight months. Joanne Fraill, 40, has the honour of being the first British person to be convicted of contempt of court involving the internet
Solicitor General Edward Garnier said her case should serve as a warning to other jurors. He told Reuters that it was important that the integrity of our justice system and the integrity of our jury system is maintained and preserved.
Fraill admitted at London's High Court to using Facebook to swap messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a female defendant who had been acquitted in an ongoing drug trial in the northern English city of Manchester last year. Fraill carried out an internet search into Sewart's boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still thinking about the case.
When her actions were revealed, the £6 million pounds trail was scrapped and the judge was forced to discharge the jury. Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge, the head of the judiciary, said in a written ruling Fraill was "a woman of good character" and had not tried pervert the course of justice. But her actions were such flagrant breaches of orders made by the trial judge and jail for a juror committing similar contempt was "virtually inevitable".
Ironically Sewart was given a two-month sentence suspended for two years after being found guilty of contempt by replying to Fraill.