Skip to main content

Tweeting as a juror

Oh, it’s all go on the jury front at the moment! First, I’m called up to be a juror, then the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales decides to discuss the topic of tweeting and doing online research while acting as a juror.

In terms of my own experience in a Scottish court, I have to say, there weren’t any warnings about tweeting or going online via our phones by anyone official while I was in the public area of the court, or the jury room. I think there may have been a comment by the Clerk to turn phones to silent while we waited to be selected, but that may be a figment of my imagination, as I was reminding myself to make sure my phone was on silent while sitting there.

Once selected and led to the jury room we were told by the court officer that we had to turn our phones off, and we were to be allowed one phone call to a relevant person who needed to know we’d been selected and therefore unavailable until 4pm (childminders etc) on the landline in the room, but other than that, we were meant to be incommunicado. I did think it was a slightly archaic instruction at the time, especially since one individual who needed to inform her childcarer just used her mobile, as it was easier than finding the number and dialling it on the landline phone! We were instructed about not discussing the case with family or friends when we went home, but nothing was said about not looking up the defendants online.

Needless to say, this “turn your phones off” instruction was pretty much completely ignored – texting and emailing was going on frequently as we sat in the jury room, and people continued to use their phones to do their work (one person was using his Blackberry to deal with his emails, while we sat twiddling our thumbs waiting), while others were texting regular updates to people about when they might possibly be getting out of the court. I was also naughty and did tweet once….to say I was bored! And I was also texting to ask someone to look up the times of the next trains for me, as I was going to see them whenever we were allowed out.

Admittedly, we as the jury hadn’t heard anything beyond what had been read out in public in the court, so perhaps things would have been different if we’d actually been involved in any deliberations.

So, to complain about people tweeting in court, when they’ve not had any instructions NOT to, may be a bit daft. Yes, technically, in the jury room our phones should have been turned off. But when you’re being dragged out of your normal life to sit on a jury, and everything’s put on hold, you need some sort of way to still stay involved with reality. And with modern technology allowing so much of your life to be dealt with via your phone (emails, texts, social networks, events calendar), cutting you off from that without an understandable reason means people WILL just ignore your rules, as my jury members and I did.

If you want people not to do specific things, tell them that: don’t just assume they’ll know the rules and reasons that you do, or that they will be compliant enough not to show some interested thought and actively try and find out themselves, in some small way, what “really” happened in a case...it's definitely a temptation to "play detective"!

You could also clearly explain the penalties for disobedience – we knew we could get in trouble for discussing the case with other people, and that was something that I don’t think any of us had any intention of doing, but there was no hint of a penalty for internet/online activity.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything - physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!
The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions: The physical layou…

Learning from the experts

One regular occurrence, no matter what the age of your collection, is finding a book in need of some sort of repair. Whether it's become overheated and dried out, with random pages falling out, or if it's "shelled itself", with the whole cover block detaching from the pages, there's always a book that needs some attention. My problem is that I'm not skilled enough in this area to know what sort of repairs are possible, and where the line is between me being able to do some basic repairs, and when a book needs to be sent off to the book binders for some expert attention. 
Luckily, the binders we usually use, Downie Allison Downie, run a variety of classes on all elements of book making and repair. My colleague and I were able to go along to one of these classes recently, carrying a few sad examples each of books in need of repair. The way we spilt the carrying weight, I had the hardbacks with me, and my colleague had paperbacks in various states of dirtiness …

Impressive shelving technique

I have a new role model: the shelving technique demonstrated between 12 and 18 seconds by the librarian in this Lucozade video is something to aspire to! :D