In a previous post, I looked at the restrictions on publishing jury deliberations. Now comes the news that, in the UK, the Attorney-General has been given the go-ahead to prosecute The Times:
The Attorney-General has been given permission to bring contempt of court proceedings against the publishers of The Times and the foreman of a jury alleged to have revealed “secrets of the jury room”.
The foreman’s anonymous criticism of the conviction of a childminder for the manslaughter of a baby in her care was reported in a Times article in 2007. At the High Court, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, was given leave to bring proceedings against Times Newspapers Ltd and the foreman. The newspaper had not been informed of the hearing.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay said: “We don’t think this is the very gravest case of jury indiscretion – nevertheless we grant permission.”
One question which I assume will arise – as Joseph Jaconelli suggested in (1990) 10 Legal Studies 91 and in chapter 7 of Open Justice: A critique of the Public Trial (OUP, 2002) – will be as to the extent to which freedom of expression, on the part both of the juror and of the media, trenches upon the traditional absolute secrecy of the jury room. We shall have to watch this space.