LONDON – A British juror was warned by a judge on Tuesday that she faces jail for contacting a defendant on the social networking site Facebook, causing the collapse of a major drugs trial.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind in Britain involving the Internet, juror Joanne Fraill admitted contempt of court at the High Court in London for chatting online with Jamie Sewart during a trial last year.
Britain’s Lord Chief Justice, Igor Judge, said Fraill’s sentence would be announced on Thursday, but warned the sobbing woman he did not think there were any circumstances under which she could avoid jail.
Fraill, 40, faces a maximum of two years in prison.
The judges also found that Sewart — who ended up being acquitted during the trial last August — had also committed contempt by asking Frail for details of the jury’s deliberations.
But the judges ruled the 34-year-old would receive a suspended sentence because she had suffered a lengthy separation from her baby during the earlier trial.
The charges were brought by Britain’s attorney general over the collapse last year of one of a series of trials of an alleged drugs gang in Manchester, northwest England, that cost £6 million (6.8 million euros, $9.7 million).
Fraill admitted making contact with Sewart through Facebook while the trial was underway and revealing details of the jury’s deliberations while they were continuing.
She also carried out her own research into the case on the Internet.
After tracking down Sewart through Facebook, Fraill told her in one conversation: “Can’t believe they had u on remand”, the BBC reported.
In another exchange, Sewart replied: “Ha ha, ur mad. I really appreciate everythin. If i cud of kissed u all i would of done ha ha.”
Fraill’s lawyer, Peter Wright, admitted it was “a most grave contempt” but told the court that during the trial Fraill “came to feel considerable empathy towards the female defendant, Miss Sewart”.
The High Court is also dealing with an appeal by Sewart’s boyfriend Gary Knox, who was convicted in the drugs case but argues that his sentence should be overturned because of misconduct by the jury.
Knox was convicted of buying information on drug dealers from a police officer in return for a BMW car and tickets to English Premier League football matches.
The judges said they would also rule on Knox’s appeal on Thursday.
Speaking outside Court, Sewart said: “I regret everything. She (Fraill) contacted me. My mind was in a whirlwind. I had just been acquitted. When I sat back and thought about it I realised I should report it and I did.”
Strike on Saudi oil field likely launched by Iranian ‘proxies’ inside Iraq
The drone strike on an oil field in Saudi Arabia on the weekend was likely launched by Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran, said France 24’s terrorism expert Wassim Nasr.
“It’s the most plausible version,” he said.
And it wouldn’t be the first time such strikes have been launched from inside Iraq by Iranian-backed forces, Nasr explained. Between April 2018 and July 2019, three reported interceptions or strikes targeted a Saudi pipeline running from the east of the Kingdom to the Red Sea, disrupting the transport of oil.
The technology was also evidently a Houthi missile based in Iranian technology, a Quds-1 missile that is a smaller and “better” version of the Iranian Soumar missile, Nasr said.
Warning against ‘another endless war,’ Ilhan Omar says congress must act to stop Trump from attacking Iran
"Congress has the constitutional right to declare war. The president doesn't have it. The secretary of state doesn't have it. And Saudi Arabia certainly doesn't have it."
With President Donald Trump firing off menacing tweets and the White House working to blame Iran—on the basis of flimsy evidence—for attacks on Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, Rep. Ilhan Omar said Monday night that Congress must act urgently to prevent Trump from launching another catastrophic military conflict in the Middle East.
Britain’s Supreme Court enters Brexit crisis
Britain's Supreme Court began considering legal challenges Tuesday to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's controversial decision to suspend parliament for over a month, as the country's political crisis over Brexit intensifies.
The court started hearing three days of arguments over Johnson's move to shutter, or prorogue, the House of Commons last week until October 14 -- just two weeks before the country is scheduled to leave the European Union.
The politically-charged case, unprecedented in Britain, could lead to parliament being recalled and Johnson's political hand severely weakened in the run-up to the October 31 departure date.