Caught in a le­gal jam? Help is at hand

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

I’ve been sum­monsed to do jury duty. Do I need to go?

Firstly, how won­der­ful that you might get to be a liv­ing, breath­ing part of the jus­tice sys­tem at work.

We are sure you will rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to put your com­mon sense and ex­pe­ri­ence into ac­tion in a fair and im­par­tial man­ner.

If you are sum­monsed, it’s be­cause your name has been se­lected ran­domly from the elec­toral roll, and you have com­pleted a Prospec­tive Juror Ques­tion­naire.

This ques­tion­naire is de­signed to de­ter­mine whether you are el­i­gi­ble for jury ser­vice.

If you re­ceive a sum­mons and you are un­able to at­tend, you can ask to be ex­cused by writ­ing to the Deputy Sher­iff.

It is ac­tu­ally un­law­ful for an em­ployer to dis­miss you if you are un­avail­able for work due to serv­ing on a jury.

Not go­ing to court af­ter be­ing sum­monsed can carry a fine, or even worse – you may be found in con­tempt of court and sen­tenced to a pe­riod of im­pris­on­ment.

Once you at­tend court, there is an em­pan­el­ment process, where again your name might be picked at ran­dom to ac­tu­ally serve on a jury.

If you are se­lected as a juror, you are en­ti­tled to be paid for your ser­vice and meals will be sup­plied to you. If nec­es­sary, you will be ac­com­mo­dated overnight if you’re re­quired to be locked up while reach­ing a ver­dict.

I re­cently woke up af­ter a long night on the wines to find that I had spent part of my evening “trolling” some former ac­quain­tances. My com­ments were pretty harsh and, in hind­sight, to­tally un­true. These peo­ple have now threat­ened to take le­gal ac­tion. They can’t be se­ri­ous can they?

Ah yes, we all know a bot­tle or two can add some pas­sion and vit­riol to what might or­di­nar­ily have been a well-cal­cu­lated and truth­ful post.

Some years ago we might have ad­vised you not to worry, that le­gal ac­tions in­volv­ing so­cial me­dia and the law sur­round­ing it has not yet ma­tured. Un­for­tu­nately, this is no longer the case.

A former high school stu­dent was re­cently or­dered to pay his former teacher $105,000 in dam­ages fol­low­ing his post­ing of a num­ber of defam­a­tory “tweets” on twit­ter.

Talk about an ex­pen­sive night in! In that case, and oth­ers since, the courts have made it clear that pub­lish­ing on so­cial me­dia is no dif­fer­ent to, say, pub­lish­ing the same ma­te­rial in a mag­a­zine.

It is also im­por­tant to note that the damage caused by defam­a­tory posts can be ex­ac­er­bated in close-knit com­mu­ni­ties such as ours and this could be fac­tored in by a court when cal­cu­lat­ing the amount of dam­ages to award.

To this end it is our view that the best thing you could do at this early stage is to delete the posts and send an apol­ogy to the re­cip­i­ents.

With a bit of luck, the re­cip­i­ents will for­give you and you won’t find your­self in court.

Have you got a le­gal ques­tion you want to ask the team? It’s com­pletely anony­mous!

Sim­ply email ed­i­tor@ whit­sun­day­ and we will print your an­swer in next week’s pa­per.


LE­GAL EX­PERT: PD Law's crim­i­nal lawyer El­iz­a­beth Smith can help you out of a jam.

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