Friday, June 17, 2011...1:24 pm

Harsh sentence for semi-literate Facebook juror

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A juror who has been prosecuted for contempt of the English language after using Facebook to contact a defendant in a drugs trial, has been sentenced to eight months of remedial language lessons.

Joanne Fraill admitted at London’s high court using Facebook to exchange incoherent messages with Jamie Sewart, a former defendant in last year’s multimillion-pound drug trial in Manchester.

Sewart admitted she knew that Fraill was a juror in the trial when she added her as a Facebook friend during jury deliberations. Sewart asked her in a Facebook chat on 3 August “what’s happenin with the other charge??”, to which Fraill responded by asking her to clarify her question by using simpler words.

Fraill wrote: “cant get anyone to go either no one budging pleeeeeese don’t say anything cause jamie they could all miss trial and I will get 4cked to0.”

Another incomprehensible message read: “jamie am gonna get off this lot doing me head in x it be over tomoz fingers crossed , im not as daft as am cabbage looking hahaha alll that note taking was just killing time lolol drew more than i wrote lol”

At this point the court was forced to bring in a translator to turn the updates into standard English.

Fraill admitted carrying out an internet search into Sewart’s boyfriend, co-defendant Gary Knox, during the jury’s deliberations. Luckily, Google’s pre-emptive fuzzy-spelling search allowed her to find the information she needed in this case.

When the lord chief justice, the improbably named Lord Judge, announced her eight-month sentence, Fraill sobbed “what’s a sentence?”, and put her head on the table in front of her, forcing the judge to adjourn the court “for everyone to check their Fowler’s”.

Sentencing Fraill, the judge said in a written ruling: “Her conduct in updating her Facebook Wall was directly contrary to the principles of coherent English, and her contact with the acquitted defendant, as well as her repeated searches on the internet, constituted flagrant breaches of literacy.”

Sewart said: “I really feel for the woman [Fraill]. She’s got kids who can spell better than her. She apollergised said sorry, and she’s not a bad lady. I really feel for her.”

Fraill hugged sobbing relatives before she was led away to start her sentence (preferably with a subject).

After intensive language tuition by her legal counsel, Fraill improbably suggested she emailed Sewart because she felt “empathetic” and saw “considerable parallels” between their lives.

The solicitor general, Edward Garnier QC, acting on behalf of the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, accused Fraill and Sewart of acting in “plain contempt of the English language”.

A psychiatric report on Fraill reveals a “most unhappy schooling, a troubled academic life” and “linguistic misfortune on a very considerable scale”, her barrister said.

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