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Jailed juror had been warned of internet contempt conviction

24 January 2012

Theodora Dallas, a former university lecturer jailed yesterday for contempt, had been explicitly warned of a previous case where a juror was jailed for misusing the internet, it has emerged.

Dallas, who came to Britain from Greece as a teenager, was a juror at Luton Crown Court in July 2011.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General, who brought the charges, said that before the trial started potential jurors were given verbal instructions from the court’s jury officer not to research their cases on the internet, or any of the individuals involved in the trial.

“Notice boards in the jury waiting room gave similar warnings and the trial judge also reminded them of the Fraill case.”

Joanne Fraill contacted a defendant via Facebook after his trial, but before the jury she was sitting on had delivered its verdict on another defendant. Fraill started a conversation, using an assumed name, volunteering comments about the trial.

She was convicted of contempt, following a case brought by the Solicitor General, and sentenced by the Lord Chief Justice to eight months in custody (16 June 2011).

The defendant in the case of Dallas was Barry Medlock, charged along with two co-defendants with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.

The court heard that over an extended period of time Medlock and the co-defendants tortured the victim, beat him, set him alight and poured caustic soda with boiling water over him.

The spokeswoman said details of a previous conviction Medlock had received for ABH were adduced in evidence under the bad character provisions.

“However, on the third day of the trial another juror reported that Ms Dallas had been on the internet, found that the defendant and his accomplice had also been previously charged with rape (Medlock was acquitted), and had told the other jurors, despite being asked to stop,” the spokeswoman said.

“Ms Dallas denied that she had deliberately conducted research and had understood the directions only related to Facebook.”

The Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, said afterwards: “I take no pleasure in bringing such cases but they send an important message. By her action Ms Dallas halted a trial which was near completion and, aside from the financial implications, her actions resulted in the victim in the case being forced to return to court and give evidence for a second time.

“There can be little doubt that repeated warnings were given to Ms Dallas and her fellow jurors as to the prohibition on conducting research into the case which they were trying.”

Dallas’ actions were reported to the judge and the trial was abandoned. A retrial took place and in October and Medlock was convicted. In January this year he was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, sentenced her to six months in prison, saying once again that a custodial sentence was “virtually inevitable” for misuse of the internet by jurors.

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