Should Jurors be Allowed to Google Their Defendants?

By Gary Cutlack on at

Theodora Dallas was recently handed a six-month jail sentence for looking up the details of a defendant on Google while serving as a jury member on a case. Yes, that's against the rules, but surely we can't expect people to voluntarily seal themselves in an impenetrable bubble just because they've been press-ganged into doing jury duty?

Dallas claimed it was a language mix-up and that she wasn't aware looking up suspects was against the rules, but the main mistake the 34-year-old university lecturer made was in admitting to other jurors that she'd found details of the accused's previous criminal allegations on the internet, which is obviously a silly thing to do.

But we live in the modern world. News is blasted into our telephones as fast as our mobile batteries and weak 3G connections will allow, and we're never more than one button press and a voice search away from information about anything under the sun.

The current law requiring jurors to screen themselves from all facts relating to a case is designed for the days when accessing the news required you to attach a horse to a cart and purposefully drive it 10 miles through a thick fog in order to pick up a printed summary of last week's headlines.

Nowadays, news is everywhere. You can't avoid it, it comes at you in the night if you forget to quieten your telephone a few notches, plus idly browsing facts is what we all do for fun. The law ought to get with the programme and realise it can't separate itself entirely from the world in which easily accessible facts and stats fill our lives. [Metro]

Image credit: Criminal court from Shutterstock