Facebook Message From a U.K. Juror Will Lead to Time In Jail, Judge Says

(Corrects spelling of name in second paragraph of story originally published June 14.)

An English juror will be jailed after using Facebook Inc.’s social-networking service to contact a defendant in a drug case during trial and discussing the jury’s deliberations.

Joanne Fraill, 40, must be imprisoned for contempt of court, Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge said today. He and two other judges will determine the length of her sentence June 16.

“There are no circumstances to avoid” jail time, he said at the London trial.

This is the first time someone has been punished for contempt of court because of contact over the Internet, said U.K. Solicitor General Edward Garnier, who prosecuted the case. Jamie Sewart, the female defendant Fraill contacted, was also found guilty of contempt.

The judges said Sewart, 34, wouldn’t be imprisoned because she has a young child and already served 14 months on remand for the crime on which she was acquitted.

Garnier said that on Aug. 3 Fraill contacted Sewart, a defendant in the case she was deliberating on, using Facebook’s instant messaging. While Sewart already had been acquitted in the case, the jury at Manchester Crown Court in northern England was still deliberating charges against others.

A lawyer for Fraill, told the judges his client confessed to contacting the defendant during the trial.

During the conversation Sewart asked Fraill “what’s happening with the other charge,” Garnier said.

Fraill responded: “No-one budging,” while telling Sewart not to mention the message saying she feared a mistrial.

Sewart said on the witness stand that she wasn’t sure she was speaking with a juror when she received the messages and denied the contempt of court charge.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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