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Criminal courts: Juror faces jail after contacting defendant through Facebook

In an unprecedented court case for UK legal history, a juror has been accused of contempt of court for using Facebook to contact a defendant.

Joanne Fraill was serving as a juror on a 10-week trial for an important drug crime case in Manchester.

She allegedly used Facebook to contact Jamie Sewart, a defendant in the trial who had recently been acquitted, although there were still other defendants to be tried.

Ms Fraill is also accused of using the internet to research the other defendants in the trial after being expressly told by the judge to only use evidence given in court on which to base her decision.

Prosecutor Angus McCullough QC said: "Ms Fraill contacted Ms Sewart via the internet and conducted an online conversation with her.

"The discussion took place at a time when the jury still had outstanding verdicts to return on the case.

"That contact and discussion were in direct breach of the judge's repeated directions to the jury that they should not discuss the case with anyone outside their number, and constituted a contempt of court."

A contempt of court is committed when someone interferes with the administration of justice.

If they are found guilty, both Ms Fraill and Ms Sewart could face up to two years in jail.

Related links:
Read more on this story (BBC)
Find out what is contempt of court? (FindLaw)
Find local criminal solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)