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Facebook contempt juror faces jail

The first juror ever to be prosecuted for contempt of court involving the internet sobbed inconsolably as she faced the "terrifying" prospect of jail.

Previously a woman of "unblemished good character", Joanne Fraill, 40, was told by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, he did not think it would be possible to avoid her immediate committal to prison.

Also described by her QC as "hard-working, respectable, honest", she now faces an agonising wait until Thursday to learn her fate.

London's High Court heard that Fraill, from Manchester, had admitted using Facebook to contact Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in a drugs trial in Manchester last year, while the jury's deliberations were continuing.

She also admitted conducting an internet search into the defendants whose case she was trying, also a breach of the 1981 Contempt of Court Act.

Peter Wright QC, appearing for Fraill, said she was "inconsolable" and "distraught" over what she had done, and the consequences of it, and "terrified at the prospect of imprisonment".

She was a mother-of-three, with three stepchildren, who had not intended to do wrong while carrying out her civic duty as a juror.

The problem was that as the trial "gathered in momentum and intensity, she began to feel considerable empathy towards the female defendant, Miss Sewart".

What she had done had left her "depressed, isolated and in complete despair" and a psychiatric report was being prepared.

Sewart, from Bolton, was also accused of contempt by chatting on Facebook with Fraill. The exact penalties both Fraill and Sewart will face are expected to be announced on Thursday.


From Belfast Telegraph