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Facebook wrecks £6m trial as juror allegedly befriends defendant

Order, order! Court is in session this week for a juror who allegedly contacted the defendant of their trial through Facebook.

Order, order! Court is in session this week for a juror who wrecked a trial when they allegedly went on to Facebook to contact the person in the dock.

Juror Joanne Fraill and defendant Jamie Sewart allegedly had a conversation about the trial on Facebook, and the pair will be prosecuted on Tuesday for contempt of court after Sewart was aquitted. Next time you think Facebook games are wasting your time and costing loads of money, just remember that this incident wrecked a series of trials lasting 10 weeks and costing £6m.

The contempt case will be heard by Lord Chief Justice (and poster boy for nominative determinism) Igor Judge. Last year, Lord Judge said the Internet threatens fair trials, and reports suggest he may be right: the Times reckons jurors are openly discussing cases on social networks, with one juror reportedly holding a Facebook poll for their friends to decide the fate of the trial. We blame the X Factor.

That report from the Times is behind a paywall, so you'll have to cough up some cash if you want to read how other defendants in the trials are also appealing their convictions over the Facebook messages.

Twitter has recently been in the dock with the Twitter joke trial, when Paul Chambers was convicted for tweeting a joke about blowing up an airport. The Ryan Giggs super-injunction affair then saw vast numbers of Twitter users reveal the Manchester United winger's legal gagging of newspaper reports about an affair.

It seems the law hasn't caught up with the Internet, but what should the law do about people discussing their case online? Fortunately, we don't mind you contacting us on Facebook -- so deliver your verdict on our Facebook wall. Does the Internet have a place in the legal process, or should jurors be isolated from the Web? And what should the penalties be?