The UK government has grown tired of buffoons ruining criminal trials by posting the beans all over the internet, and is looking to create new laws to try and fix things.
The government’s most senior lawyer, the Attorney General, has tasked elements of the criminal justice system and victims’ groups with finding examples of when online chatter has spoilt a trial through contempt of court.
Traditionally, jury members are sworn to secrecy for the duration of a trial, in case discussing the details outside of the courtroom prejudices their views – and for many years this simple rule was understood. However, with the rise of social media allowing self-appointed yet wholly inept ‘experts’ to run commentaries on everything from global warming to nuclear fusion, the criminal justice system has inevitably been caught up in the malaise.
Courts work hard to ensure that trials are in no way prejudiced against defendants, thus juries are only given facts that are pertinent to each case. When secret details are awash online, trials can be threatened with collapse.
Two years ago, a judge called a halt to a trial of two teenage girls who were accused of murdering a vulnerable woman. The trial managed to make it the second day before Facebook commenters made their fevered contributions, which included threats to the accused.