Juror jailed over online chat with defendant
Published 17/06/2011 | 05:00
THE first juror to be prosecuted for contempt of court for using the internet was yesterday left "totally devastated" as she was jailed for eight months.
The British Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other senior judges used the case of Joanne Fraill (40), who admitted chatting with an acquitted defendant on Facebook, to warn jurors generally not to undermine the country's "precious jury system" by discussing, or researching, their cases online.
When Lord Judge announced her sentence, Fraill, from Blackley, Manchester, cried "Eight months!" and put her head on the table in front of her at London's High Court and sobbed.
She is expected to serve four months before becoming eligible for early release. The maximum she could have received was two years.
Her solicitor Damian Wall said she was devastated at what had happened and regretted the impact on her family.
Earlier the court had been told that Fraill, who was "terrified" at the prospect of prison, faced additional anguish as one of her daughters had gone into premature labour.
Mr Wall said: "Mrs Fraill does not seek, in any way, to diminish the seriousness of her actions."
Fraill, a mother of three with three stepchildren, admitted using Facebook to exchange messages with Jamie Sewart (34), a defendant already acquitted in a complex multimillion-pound drug trial last year.
The jury was still deliberating in the cases of three other defendants.
It was the third of four trials at Manchester Crown Court estimated to have cost £6m (€6.8m), with Fraill's actions triggering the final retrial.
Fraill contacted Sewart, a mother of two from Bolton, Greater Manchester, after Sewart was cleared of conspiracy to supply drugs, to express sympathy and wish her well.
Using the sender name of 'Jo Smilie', she told Sewart: "You should know me, I've cried with you enough."
During their exchanges, Sewart asked about an outstanding charge. Fraill replied: "cant get anywaone to go either no one budging pleeeeeese dont say anyhting cause jamie they could call mmiss trial and i will get 4cked to0".
Sewart denied contempt, but was found guilty. Her two-month sentence was suspended for two years after the judges took into account she had been separated from her baby girl for 14 months while on trial.