Manchester

'Facebook juror' in contempt case

Contempt proceedings are to begin against a juror who allegedly contacted a defendant through Facebook during a drugs trial, causing it to collapse.

The High Court was told that Joanne Maria Fraill got in touch with Jamie Sewart, who had been acquitted, while the jury had still to reach verdicts on other defendants.

Ms Fraill is also said to have done internet research on the defendants.

Ms Sewart, of Henrietta Street, Bolton, also faces contempt proceedings.

Two High Court judges heard that Ms Fraill, of Haverfield Road, Blackley, Manchester, gave information relating to the jury's deliberations to Ms Sewart.

'Online conversation'

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve said the jury had to be discharged, with the 10-week trial almost at its conclusion.

In a statement presented to the High Court by Angus McCullough QC, Mr Grieve said: "Ms Fraill contacted Ms Sewart via the internet and conducted an online conversation with her.

"The discussion took place at a time when the jury still had outstanding verdicts to return on the case.

"That contact and discussion were in direct breach of the judge's repeated directions to the jury that they should not discuss the case with anyone outside their number, and constituted a contempt of court.

"Ms Fraill also conducted internet searches on the defendants she was trying."

Ms Sewart faces contempt proceedings on the basis that she "solicited from Ms Fraill particulars of the jury's deliberations in relation to a count they were still considering".

Both women could be jailed if found guilty of contempt.

The case will now go forward to a further High Court hearing before two judges to determine whether the pair will be jailed and, if so, for how long.

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