Jurors use of social media examined


Tasmanian researchers are looking into how social media can influence jurors in court trials.

The Tasmanian Law Reform Institute (based at the Unversity of Tasmania) is calling for community feedback on its preliminary 'issues' paper which has just been released.

Jury misconduct in regards to online behaviour during criminal trials is considered an under-reported and under-researched topic both in Australia and abroad.

“Preserving an accused person’s right to a fair trial at a time when social media and other internet platforms are omnipresent in our everyday lives is a significant concern," Research Fellow and lead author Jemma Holt said. 

The study is considering a wide range of juror conduct, from web-searching for information specific to the trial the juror is considering, right through to accidentally coming across relevant information in their normal social media and online activity.

In 2015, following a Supreme Court trial in Launceston (which resulted in the conviction of two defendants of aggravated assault and wounding), court staff who were cleaning the jury room discovered three pages of computer-printed material.

The material contained the results of searches on the meaning of “beyond reasonable doubt” and “circumstantial evidence” from a US online legal dictionary.

“This case may very well represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to juror misconduct of this kind in Tasmania,” Ms Holt said.

Submissions are open until October 4. 

The full report is expected to be handed down early next year. 

 Image: Pixabay