Law Review: Facebook contempt and contempt by First Minister of Scotland for law?

Today, Lord Judge, Chief Justice of England & Wales, jailed the juror who committed contempt in the ‘Facebook Contempt’ case.

Sky news reports: “Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC, who presented the case in person, added: “Jurors should take careful note and know that the law officers will prosecute those who commit contempt.

“The jury system is a cornerstone of our society and confidence in this vital part of our criminal justice system will crumble if jurors do not take their responsibilities seriously.”

There can be little doubt that Mrs Fraill broke the oath taken by all jurors, disregarded the trial judge’s instruction regarding the use of the internet and, as Lord Judge observed, went further in her dealings with a former defendant than concerned compassion.  Her activities led to a re-trial in a multi-million pound drugs case.  She pleaded guilty and received a sentence of eight months.

Lord Judge gave an interesting speech recently on the subject of the Jury, the internet, the use of twitter et al.  Some may argue, with some reason, that Lord Judge, in the light of his statements in the speech,  should not have tried this particular issue. I don’t have a particular problem with that – but it may be raised, should there be an appeal?

I may return to this topic when I have had more time to think about the issues.  Others will be writing on the matter, without doubt.

In the meantime – the First Minister of Scotland is digging a deeper and deeper hole with his ‘observations’ on the relationship between Scots Law and The United Kingdom Supreme Court and his personal attacks on senior judges.

This joint statement is of particular interest:

Responding to recent comments from the First Minister; Richard Keen, dean of the faculty of advocates and Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland have today issued a joint statement.  The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 makes the position clear.

“The independence of our judicial system and the need to respect the rule of law are fundamental aspects of Scottish society, as they must be of any democratic society. This is affirmed by the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act, an Act of the Scottish Parliament which obliges the First Minister and the Justice Secretary to uphold the independence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .

“Our judges must be free to decide cases independently, according to law and upon evidence. Any attempt to influence the outcome of litigation by reference to political wishes or a politician’s perception of popular opinion is a challenge not only to the courts but to the rule of law.

“The Scottish Government talks about the unintended consequences of establishing the UK Supreme Court. The First Minister and the Justice Secretary need to carefully reflect on the consequences of what are perceived to be repeated and now highly personal attacks on respected members of the legal profession. Such comments contribute nothing to any sensible debate on how best to provide a justice system that properly and effectively meets the needs of our changing society.”

You may also wish to read this remarkable interview… for the full story on Mr Salmond’s views.

My thanks to @Loveandgarbage for keeping me up to date with these remarkable ‘goings on’ north of the border.

8 thoughts on “Law Review: Facebook contempt and contempt by First Minister of Scotland for law?

  1. Re contempt of court. it is absolutely right that a custodial sentence is meted out in cases of this sort. If anything, 8 months is too lenient. Instances where jurors talk to the accused, or connected persons, have a high risk of perverting the course of justice. Justice will mean nothing if the processes that deliver it do not have integrity.

  2. I stand by my comment in the post immediately before this one.

    In my respectfully view, the disparity in sentence between Fraill and Sewart takes some explaining. However, Fraill was the juror and breached her oath and disregarded the judge’s instructions to the jury. This must be the real basis for the difference in sentence though it was reported that Lord Judge told Sewart that it would serve no useful purpose to separate her from her child again. She had been separated whilst held on remand in the drugs case – (she was acquitted). Having said this, Joanne Fraill is reported as having the care of 3 step-children.

    Another difference is that Fraill admitted the contempt but it had to be proved against Sewart. What credit (if any) was given for Fraill’s guilty plea?

    One also wonders just what was in the psychiatric report which the judges clearly had in relation to Fraill. In the absence of a reasoned decision we may not really get to know how, if at all, that affected the sentence.

  3. Who was the Scottish train in ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ who was fond of saying ‘dinna fash yersel’?

    the memory fades.

    I liked the old ‘Private Eye’ parody – ‘Thomas the Sex Machione’ by the Reverend Tawdry’

  4. she’d have got 1/3 for a plea, i’d imagine. that’s 12 months base. you can get less than that for burglary in a dwelling or abh or head-butting a copper or sexual assault on a 6 year old…. hmmmmm. them courts really hate people contemning them.

  5. This is Nationalism for you. Alex Salmond may be a very effective politician; much better than the political Pygmies put up against him by his opponents, but Nationalism is an irrational tribalistic ideology. Now he has his absolute majority he is of to become a tartan dictator, the living embodiment of THE PEOPLE; and we know where that leads. Power goes to the head. Nobbling the Judges independence is a well trodden path to the purple.

  6. Pingback: Best of the blogs | Law Brief Update

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