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British juror faces jail over Facebook chat

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.”


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Gun attack leaves 24 dead in central Mexico

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Gunmen on Wednesday attacked a drug rehabilitation center in central Mexico, killing at least 24 people and leaving seven wounded, local authorities said.

According to preliminary information, the attackers "entered the scene, forced (the victims) onto the ground and shot them," said Pedro Cortes, secretary of public security in Irapuato, located northwest of Mexico City in Guanajuato state.

"We have reports that the (armed) subjects arrived in a red vehicle, no further information is known. The preliminary report we have is of 24 dead people and seven wounded," he added.

Authorities are working on locating the vehicle, Cortes said.

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Actor Geoffrey Rush wins ‘largest ever’ Australian defamation payout from Rupert Murdoch

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Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush won a record multimillion-dollar payout Thursday after an appeal by a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper against a defamation ruling was thrown out by an Australian court.

The Oscar-winner will receive US$2 million for lost earnings and compensation after a court rejected an appeal seeking reduced costs and a retrial of the case.

The decision -- against News Corp's Australian subsidiary Nationwide News -- is the latest twist in the ongoing legal battle between Rush and the Daily Telegraph, which accused him of inappropriate sexual behaviour toward female cast members.

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75 years ago: When atomic scientist Leo Szilard tried to halt dropping bombs over Japan

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As this troubled summer rolls along, and the world begins to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation, and use, of the first atomic bombs, many special, or especially tragic, days will draw special attention.  They will include July 16 (first test of the weapon in New Mexico), August 6 (bomb dropped over Hiroshima) and August 9 (over Nagasaki).   Surely far fewer in the media and elsewhere will mark another key date:  July 3.

On July 3, 1945, the great atomic scientist Leo Szilard finished a letter/petition that would become the strongest (virtually the only) real attempt at halting President Truman's march to using the atomic bomb--still almost two weeks from its first test at Trinity--against Japanese cities.

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