Many jurors confused by contempt rules regarding internet use
24 May 2013
A report has revealed that a “significant minority” of jurors do not properly understand the rules of contempt with regard to internet use during trials.
According to the report, 16 per cent of jurors believe that they are not supposed to go online at all whilst serving on a jury.
The research, which is believed to provide the first empirical evidence of understanding of the rules of contempt among jurors in England and Wales, was carried out by Professor Cheryl Thomas from the University College London (UCL) Faculty of Laws. Juries serving at Crown Courts were questioned.
On the other side of the coin, five per cent of respondents believed they were no restrictions on their internet use during a trial, while two percent thought it was allowed to search for information pertaining to their case.
One per cent said they looked up individuals involved in their case or visited crime scenes on sites such as Streetview.
Professor Thomas said: "These findings show that the vast majority of jurors understand and follow the rules on how jurors can use new media during trial, but the message is not getting through and is confusing to a significant minority."
Professor Thomas added: "Ensuring that trial by jury can effectively operate in the new media age requires empirical evidence about what jurors do, what they think and what are the best tools to provide them with to do their job to the best of their ability.
"Contrary to popular belief this kind of research can legally be conducted with real juries in this country, and that is precisely what the UCL Jury Project is doing."
The research also found that although all the respondents found their written directions helpful, 82 per cent would have liked more information on how to conduct their deliberations.