Internet browsing by jury members – a criminal offence?

Scottish lawyer Donald Findlay QC has suggested it be a criminal offence for jury members to trawl the internet for information about the case on which they are serving – see Veteran QC calls for change in law to protect jurors. He has apparently indicated that the impartiality of jury trials could be hampered by jurors using the internet to research cases in which they are involved. I have no doubt that such browsing occurs – it’s human nature, particularly in high profile cases. I’m not sure whether such a law protects the jury though – surely it should be there to protect justice?
The question then arises: how will it be monitored? Presumably the Police then either would be afforded the power to monitor wi-fi connections in hotels where jurors are sequestered or the power to remotely monitor internet usage of jurors throughout a trial. I understand the need for something to be done to deal with this very real issue but what happens if a juror is caught doing this? Imagine through a long and high profile trial such as those involving Clayton Weatherston, Amanda Knox, terrorists, the difficulties and expense in abandoning a trial and picking a new jury, never mind the physical and mental drain on everyone else who has to remain involved if a trial is abandoned – judges, legal teams, families.
I don’t know the answer but in the digital age, it is a struggle to imagine how internet information (which is often biased or factually incorrect) can successfully be kept from those seeking it.

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One Response

  1. It would be hard to enforce but at least it would create a deterrent.

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