The modern-day perils of using the internet while serving on a jury were all too evident today as two former jurors were brought before the High Court.
One is accused on commenting about the case he was trying on Facebook, while the other is said to have used Google to research evidence. Both could face jail terms if found guilty of contempt of court.
New jurors are warned, both prior to joining a jury and by the judge at the onset of a trial, that it is their solemn duty to only assess the case on the evidence before them in court and not to comment to outsiders.
The gravity with which the courts take such cases was evident as the matter came before Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC was prosecuting, seeking an order of committal against both men, who deny carrying out "an act likely to interfere with the administration of justice".
In one case, the High Court heard how Kasim Davey, 21, "spontaneously" wrote a Facebook message after being surprised at finding himself trying a sex offender in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
It read: "Woooow I wasn't expecting to be in a jury Deciding a paedophile's fate, I've always wanted to F*** up a paedophile & now I'm within the law!"
A judge at Wood Green Crown Court, north London, was alerted to the message last December and discharged Mr Davey from the retrial of Adam Kephalas, who was later convicted of sexual activity with a child.
Asked by his counsel, Lord Carlile QC, why he had made the posting, Mr Davey said: "It was spontaneous surprise at the kind of case I was on - there was a lot of Jimmy Savile news at the time".
He admitted he was just trying to "attract attention", insisting he had no intention of prejudicing the case and had been considering the evidence carefully before being discharged.
"I didn't understand the implications. As far as I knew it was a general statement without naming anyone," he added.
The second case involved Joseph Beard, 29, who sat on a jury at Kingston Crown Court in south west London trying two men accused of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering last year. The trial, which began on 2 October 2012, collapsed five weeks later when the jury was discharged.
Beard is alleged to have researched extra information about victims of the alleged fraud on Google before telling fellow jurors.
Today, he insisted that he had simply been using the internet to assess how long the trial was going to last as he was under pressure to return to work. He denied infuriating fellow jurors by passing on evidence they had not heard in court.
The defendants, Ian Macdonald and David Downes, were later jailed for eight years and four-and-a-half years respectively after a retrial earlier this year.
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