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Behind bars | Juries in the dock

Lack of confidence in the legal system is a more likely reason why jurors research cases online, rather than a deliberate intention to break the law, says Jeannie Mackie

30 November 2012

The Law Commission has just published its consultation paper on the reform of the law relating to contempt of court, both at common law and under the Contempt of Court Act 1981. It is a well intentioned effort – and it is not their fault that if you listen attentively you may hear the echoes of King Cnut shouting at the waves to cease their motion. Cnut probably got his feet wet to demonstrate the limits of regal dominance rather than to establish them, as this paper may demonstrate the limits of the law against the sea of information flowing in and out of courts from the internet and its busy little fishes – Twitter, Facebook , and all the rest of them.

The problem the commission has grappled with is that information is now just too easy to access, distribute, archive and retain, and that a legal system which needs to limit information cannot stem that tide. Chapter four of the paper deals with jurors, for whom it ...

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