Thursday, January 26, 2012

Online challenges to the right to a fair trial

The Guardian are reporting that a juror has been jailed for having conducted online research into a defendant and then shared the results of that research with the rest of the jury. The principle of protecting the fairness of the trial as of paramount importance makes complete sense. But what the case raises is how very difficult it is to police such fairness. In the past, simply by controlling the press through the contempt of court laws this would have eliminated the vast majority of the risk associated with people reading prejudicial material. But when everyone has access to google, Twitter and Facebook it becomes a lot more difficult to enforce unless I guess they started having juries locked away in complete isolation. But imagine that possibility for jurors facing a fraud trial which could potentially last several months. It really is a difficult conundrum all ways round and I really don't know what the answer is going to be. But however difficult the principle of a fair trial is becoming to protect we must never lose sight of its over-riding importance to our system of justice.

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