Friday, June 17, 2011

British Juror Sentenced to Eight Months for Contempt for Contacting Defendant on Facebook


Yet another case in which the Internet and social medium allows people more opportunities to get into trouble occurred in Great Britain where a juror was jailed for contempt for contacting a defendant via Facebook.

Joanne Fraill, a juror in a multimillion-pound case taking place at a High Court in London, apparently chatted on Facebook with Jamie Steward, a defendant in the trial. It is unknown whether they knew one another before the trial or made contact after the trial began.

In any event, the trial collapsed in a mistrial and Justice Igor Judge was compelled to sentence Fraill to eight months in jail. Steward was given a two-month suspended sentence.

There will doubtless be more stories along these lines thanks to the capability of people to contact anyone else anywhere in the world thanks to modern Internet based communications. While the Internet has created great benefits for the world, it is a tool and tools can be used for less than beneficial purposes as well.

Whether it is Anthony Weiner posting pictures of his privates to strangers via twitter or Joanne Fraill making what she thought was an innocent conversation with a person she was not allowed to make contact with, the Internet and social media provides more opportunity for human folly.

In times past, someone like Weiner would have to waylay people in alleys and flash them. Fraill would have to contact Steward by phone or even in person. Both take more personal effort than just pointing and clicking.

This suggest that many people are sorely lacking in something that is not taught at any schools if any, that being Internet etiquette. What is intuitively obvious to most people seems to have escaped folks like Weiner and Fraill. Just because something is easy to do, thanks to computer based communications, it does not follow it should necessarily be done.

Weiner has the rest of his life and Fraill the next eight months to contemplate the consequences of their actions. But perhaps there really needs to be some sort of systematic way of teaching people what happens when they use social media in ways that it ought not to be used. Fewer instances like what happened with Weiner and Fraill would happen therefore.

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