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An examination of social media's impact on the courts in Australia

Krawitz, Marilyn (2014) An examination of social media's impact on the courts in Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 2011, Joanne Fraill, a juror, was imprisoned for eight months because she chatted on Facebook with a co-accused from the trial that she participated in.1 Fraill’s case prompts questions about how social media affect courts, legal regulators and lawyers, as well as important legal principles. Those important legal principles are: (1) public confidence in the judiciary and the courts; (2) public confidence in the legal profession; (3) open justice; and (4) the right of an accused to a fair trial.

This thesis offers an analysis and conclusions on those issues. It examines case law, legislation, academic articles and internet materials on social media.

It is found that some Australian courts and legal regulators would benefit from doing more to adapt their procedures and rules to social media. The extent to which Australian courts and legal regulators adapt their procedures and rules to social media can have significant repercussions on the important legal principles considered.

This thesis provides Australian courts, the judiciary, legal regulators and lawyers with information and recommendations about their social media use that may assist them. The author believes that this is the first scholarly work to consider the impact that social media has had upon all of these stakeholders, and the first scholarly work in this area to recommend appropriate actions to maintain or possibly increase confidence in the judiciary, the courts and the legal profession, improve open justice and ensure that accused receive fair trials, despite the possibility that jurors may use social media inappropriately.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Law
Supervisor: McLeod, Neil, Shaw, Steve, Stepniak, Daniel and Zander, Jaimie
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