Tweeting in court: What are the consequences?
Researcher, The Archers
The rise of social media has made it seem pretty normal to splurge our innermost thoughts to the world.
Judges warn jurors that they must not post social media comments on their case, but very occasionally a juror can't resist putting their view out there. The consequences can be serious.
In one real-life incident social media posts by a juror caused a sexual offences trial to collapse, forcing the witnesses to give distressing evidence again at a retrial. The rogue juror will be discharged and will almost certainly be charged with Contempt of Court, which can carry a prison sentence. Judge Loomis will be considering whether it's still possible for Helen's trial to be fair, following the juror's tweet.
What are Judge Loomis’ options?
There's a risk it may prejudice the rest of the jury. If the tweet had been posted much earlier in the trial Judge Loomis might have discharged the whole jury, sworn in a new one, and restarted proceedings from the beginning. At this late stage that's not really an option.
It is possible for a trial to continue with the remaining 11 jurors, if Judge Loomis is convinced that they will try the case on the evidence and not be influenced by the tweet. But if he decides that's now an impossibility he could order a retrial. Any retrial date would be months away so Helen and baby Jack could face a long wait on remand in the prison Mother and Baby Unit.