The Jury Is Being Killed by the Internet

AuthorAlec Samuels
DOI10.1177/0022018320914682
Published date01 April 2020
Date01 April 2020
Subject MatterComment
Comment
The Jury Is Being
Killed by the Internet
Alec Samuels
University of Southampton, UK
Abstract
Jurors are supposed impartially to consider the evidence, and only the evidence. Because of the
seeming artificial rules of evidence,the jurors often feel that relevantinformation is being withheld
from them. So they are tempted to browse the Internet, and pass the information on to their
colleagues.The judge warnsthe jurors, but the practiceis difficult to stop.Electronic devicescan be
surrenderedduring the trial, but therecan be no control at home. If the abusedoes come to light,
then the trial will have to be restarted afresh, and the offending juror punished.
Keywords
Jury, Internet access, abuse, control
The jury is being killed by the Internet, it is said. True or false?
The traditional hallowed, fundamental, philosophical, ethical, jurisprudential and constitutional prin-
ciples by which the system of trial by jury is conducted are clear: The defendant D is entitled to a fair
trial. A fair trial is a fundamental common law concept and also set down in art 6 of the European
Convention on Human Rights and endorsed in the Human Rights Act 1998. The rule of law requires
independent and impartial decision-making by the decision-makers. The decision is made on the evi-
dence, and the evidence alone. Justice must be open. The prosecution must satisfy the burden of proof
beyond reasonable doubt. The jury is the bulwark of our rule of law, the ‘lamp of freedom’.
The Internet, the computer, the electronic device and the smartphone have revolutionised our lives.
Information (not always verified and reliable) has become virtually instantly and universally available to
all. Criminal or potentially criminal or discreditable acts, especially of any newsworthy nature, are soon
known to or can be readily ascertained by practically everybody, including jurors and potential jurors.
Jurors are tempted to look up the Internet in order to find out more about the case.
Corresponding author:
Alec Samuels, University of Southampton, 3 Roselands, Moorhill Road, West End, Southampton, SO30 3JT, UK.
E-mail: alec.samuels@btinternet.com
The Journal of Criminal Law
2020, Vol. 84(2) 163–167
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
sagepub.com/journals-permissions
DOI: 10.1177/0022018320914682
journals.sagepub.com/home/clj

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