Jailed contempt juror Joanne Fraill 'devastated'

The first juror to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet was today left "totally devastated" as she was jailed for eight months.





The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other senior judges used the case of Joanne Fraill, 40, who admitted chatting with an acquitted defendant on Facebook, to warn jurors generally not to undermine the country's "precious jury system" by discussing or researching their cases online.



When Lord Judge announced her sentence, Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, cried "Eight months!" and put her head on the table in front of her at London's High Court and sobbed.



She is expected to serve four months before becoming eligible for early release. The maximum she could have received was two years.



Her solicitor Damian Wall said she was totally devastated at what had happened and regretted the impact on her family.



Earlier the court had been told that Fraill, who was "terrified" at the prospect of prison, faced additional anguish as one of her daughters, who was due to give birth next month, had gone into labour this morning.



Mr Wall said: "Mrs Fraill does not seek, in any way, to diminish the seriousness of her actions, rather she hopes that the example that has been set in this case will help prevent any other person undertaking jury service from behaving in the way that she did."



Fraill, a mother of three with three stepchildren, admitted using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in a complex multi-million pound drug trial last year.



The jury was still deliberating in the cases of three other defendants.



It was the third of four trials at Manchester Crown Court estimated to have cost £6 million, with Fraill's actions triggering the final retrial.



Fraill contacted Sewart, a mother of two from Bolton, Greater Manchester, after Sewart was cleared of conspiracy to supply drugs to express sympathy and wish her well.



Using the "sender name" of "Jo Smilie", she told Sewart: "You should know me, I've cried with you enough."



During their exchanges, Sewart asked about an outstanding charge.



Fraill replied: "cant get anywaone to go either no one budging pleeeeeese dont say anyhting cause jamie they could call mmiss trial and i will get 4cked to0".



Attorney General Dominic Grieve brought proceedings for contempt of court against both women.



Fraill admitted breaching the Contempt of Court Act 1981 by using Facebook and also conducting an internet search into Sewart's boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still deliberating in his case.



Sewart denied contempt but was found guilty. Her two-month sentence was suspended for two years after the judges took into account she had been separated from her baby girl for 14 months while on trial.



The court also took into account that Sewart told her solicitor about her Facebook contact, triggering the contempt of court action.



The High Court judges said Fraill's conduct in visiting the internet repeatedly was "directly contrary to her oath as a juror".



Her contact with Sewart, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted "flagrant breaches" of orders made by Judge Lakin, the trial judge.



He had given the jury "an unequivocal direction that they must not use the internet" but base their decision only on the evidence they heard in court.



The judges acknowledged that Fraill was "a woman of good character" and was not involved in an attempt to pervert the course of justice.



But "misuse of the internet by a juror" was always "a most serious irregularity and contempt".



In a warning to jurors present and future up and down the country, he declared that a custodial sentence for a juror committing similar contempts "is virtually inevitable".



He added: "The sentence is intended to ensure the continuing integrity of trial by jury."



He said of Fraill: "Without in any way condoning her actions in contacting Sewart after Sewart's acquittal, we carried out an examination of the psychiatric evidence to understand how her own background may have led her to wish to commiserate with Sewart's personal problems arising from the fact that a 14-month period in custody had separated her from her baby."



But the text of the communications between them "went much further than the expression of a compassionate concern".



When the question of her Facebook contact was raised with her in the Crown Court, "this woman of good character immediately and unhesitatingly admitted what she had done and apologised for it".



She then went on to provide evidence against herself of her misuse of the internet throughout the trial.



Referring to how Fraill was shaking and crying throughout the contempt hearing, the judges said the "stresses and strains" the case has caused her were "virtually palpable here in court".



After the hearing Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC, who presented the case in person, said: "The Lord Chief Justice could not have been clearer.



"Joanne Fraill and Jamie Sewart's conduct was a clear contempt of court.



"Jurors should take careful note and know that the law officers will prosecute those who commit contempt."



He said: "The jury system is a cornerstone of our society and confidence in this vital part of our criminal justice system will crumble if jurors do not take their responsibilities seriously."



Sewart, who has a son aged 15 and a daughter aged three, said after the hearing: "I really feel for the woman (Fraill). She's got kids. She's apologised and she's not a bad lady.



"At the end of the day she is a mother. I do feel really sorry. She was being nice to me.



"I'm relieved and feel awful at the same time."



Sewart said she still used Facebook - "You just have to be careful who you speak to".



Sewart's boyfriend Knox, 35, was jailed for six years at the Manchester trial for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.



Today Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Holroyde, rejected Knox's claim that his conviction was unsafe in the light of Fraill's misconduct, saying that it had not "undermined" his defence.



The judges also threw out his appeal against sentence.



As Knox had entered the dock, Sewart blew kisses to him from the public gallery.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there