In this age of social media Judges are becoming increasingly aware of what is being said on Facebook and other social media sites in legal proceedings.
A Defendant had his sentence overturned in the UK learnt this after their comments bragging on Facebook were seen by a Judge. After seeing the comments she brought the Defendant and his brother, whose case was earlier heard before her, back to Court and decided to impose a jail sentence on them after reading their Facebook comments about the case. Two brothers had faced the prospect of a two year jail sentence before Judge Beverley Lunt when they appeared before her for dealing in drugs, however the Judge decided to suspend their sentences based on expressions of remorse shown in Court submissions.
Within an hour of receiving the suspended sentence in lieu of a jail sentence, the Defendant took to Facebook posting the following remarks on Facebook:
“Cannot believe my luck 2 year suspended sentence beats the 3 year jail yes pal. Beverly Lunt go suck my dick.” The defendant’s younger brother, a party in the court proceedings before Judge Lunt joined in posting on Facebook soon after writing “what a day it’s been Burnley crown court! Up ur arse aha nice 2 year suspended”.
The Judge reviewed their sentences after considering the Facebook comments, lifting the suspended sentence and substituted a period of imprisonment.
Judge Lunt stated: “The question I have to ask myself is this: if I had known their real feelings in court, would I have accepted their remorse and contrition and suspended the sentence? And the answer is: of course not. Each of the posts indicate they have not changed at all defendants were recalled for a sentence review when the remarks were brought to the attention of the judge. On Friday, Lunt said: “The question I have to ask myself is this: if I had known their real feelings at being in court, would I have accepted their remorse and contrition, and suspended the sentence? And the answer is: of course not. Each of the posts indicate they have not changed at all. They have not taken on board or learned any responsibility”.
This is a cautionary tale to be careful about what you choose to post on Facebook as the boundaries between the virtual world and the real world, in this case, a courtroom dispensing criminal justice, appear to be disappearing.