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Law Commission recommends prosecuting jurors that search the internet for evidence

The Law Commission has recommended that jurors be prosecuted for a criminal offence if they search for evidence beyond what it presented in court. The call for change comes after a number of jurors have been jailed for using the internet to gain evidence rather than relying on what was discussed in the courtroom.

Presently, the limitations are set by the trial judge and can vary from case to case.  It has been noted that this can sometimes lead to confusion and inconsistency.

In the report Contempt of Court: Misconduct and Internet Publication, reforms to the current system are recommended and it is noted that a single judge cannot be held responsible for setting the boundaries of what is a criminal offence in all but name.

The Law Commissioner leading on the project, Professor David Ormerod QC said: “Putting this prohibition on a statutory footing would bring greater clarity and certainty for both courts and juries. Members of the jury would know the rules; the wrongdoing could be prosecuted in the same way as other crimes.”

In the current system there is not much room for jurors to bring light to concerns regarding jury deliberations once the case is over. The Law Commission has also advocated the need for change in this area.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC commented: “Juror contempt is a serious risk to justice but people are often not aware of the consequences.

“The Law Commission’s proposal to make it an offence for jurors to search for information about their case on the internet or by other means would make the position absolutely clear and would, I hope, reduce the need for future prosecutions.

“I will now need to discuss the recommendations carefully with my government colleagues before we respond finally.”





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