Gary Rycroft column

Gary Rycroft.
Gary Rycroft.

The dust seems to have settled after the recent trial and acquittal of William Roache (better known as Ken Barlow in Coronation St) on charges of rape and indecent assault dating back to the 1960s.

An interesting legal point was highlighted after the trial in that it was reported that the judge had ruled certain evidence relating to interviews given by Mr Roache prior to his arrest was not admissible in court.

In particular there was a TV interview which was well publicised at the time, but the judge would not let it be quoted back to the jury in court, the concern being the judge did not want quotes which could be taken out of context to influence the jury.

A jury must hear a case in isolation and reach a verdict on the basis only of the evidence put to them in court.

But couldn’t members of the jury have simply researched Mr Roache on the internet and could they not have found reference to the interview the judge ruled inadmissible? And is this not an example of a scenario where the law is out of kilter with modern life and technology?

The answer is a resolute ‘no’.

A juror acting so would be in contempt of court, which is a crime in itself.

Just ask Theodora Dallas, a university lecturer from Luton.

She was jailed for six months after a trial she was sitting on as a juror in 2011 had to be abandoned because she found out from the internet and told her fellow jurors that a defendant on trial for assault had previously been charged with rape.

Indeed the Government is so concerned about the lure of the internet that to bolster the contempt of court rules it has been announced that under new legislation, jurors who research cases on the internet will face prosecution under a specific new offence with a sentence of up to two years in jail.

The new penalty will also apply to jury members who post comments about a case on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

So the moral is do not be tempted by the perils of the internet after dark, especially if you are serving on a jury.