Pump Court Chambers

Can our legal system cope with Social Media?

News 18th February 2015

With Professor Cheryl Thomas, Simon Phillips QC and Carl Gardner, Charles Parry was asked to speak to students of the Inner temple on ‘Can our legal system cope with Social Media?’ The question largely addressed issues surrounding jury management in the context of social media and internet research. Charles had represented Dr Dora Dallas, a sworn juror who conducted internet research, and who had been brought before the Divisional Court in 2012 for contempt proceedings, one of a few cases decided on this recherché area of law.

One answer to the question was ‘yes’, for the flexibility and robustness of the common law allows rapid judicial oversight of problems as they arise. As Henry II understood, using travelling justiciars with local juries, the jury gives democratic legitimacy to the dispute resolution process. However delicate handling is needed when action is taken which may affect a jury’s fact finding role. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill which is intended to criminalise jury research during the period of a trial may leave open the problem that juror internet research will perhaps be conducted, but covertly. Professor Thomas’ research on this topic is of interest [2013 CLR 483].

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