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'Facebook' juror faces sentence

The first juror ever to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet learns today whether she will be jailed.

Earlier this week Joanne Fraill, 40, sobbed as the country's most senior judge warned he did not think it would be possible to avoid sending her to prison.

Fraill admitted at London's High Court using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart, 34, a defendant already acquitted in an ongoing multi-million pound drugs trial in Manchester last year.

Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, also admitted conducting an internet search into Sewart's boyfriend, Gary Knox, a co-defendant, while the jury was still deliberating. Her actions were in direct breach of the trial judge's repeated directions to the jury and led to a re-trial for three of the defendants.

Sewart, a mother of two from Bolton also prosecuted for contempt by Attorney General Dominic Grieve, denied the charge. She was found guilty by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Holroyde.

But Sewart was told that any prison sentence imposed on her for contempt would be suspended.

Fraill was a juror in the third of four trials at Manchester Crown court estimated to have cost £6 million when she contacted Sewart, who had been acquitted of conspiracy to supply drugs.

Sewart told her solicitor about the conversation, triggering the contempt of court action.

Knox, 35, who is Sewart's boyfriend, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office. His lawyers argued his conviction was "unsafe" in the light of the internet contempt.

The judges said they would give their ruling on Knox's appeal at the same time as they formally sentence Fraill and Sewart.


From Belfast Telegraph