Facebook, Jurors and the 'Virtual Veil'

Royalty-Free Stock Imagery by Rubberball From Guardian.co.uk: 18.11.08:

A female juror was dismissed from a trial after posting details of the case on Facebook and asking friends whether they thought the defendants were guilty.

The woman went against strict rules forbidding jurors from discussing cases with family and friends by posting details of the sexual assault and child abduction trial on the social networking site.

After her actions were discovered, she was removed from the case at Burnley crown court, in Lancashire, and the trial continued with a jury of 11 people.

A Courts Service spokesman said today: "A juror was dismissed from a case on November 18 for discussing a case outside the court."

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Facebook related entry so this one seemed an obvious choice. For what it’s worth, I’ve largely given up with my Facebook-bashing, as I got sick with it falling so invariably on ‘deaf ears’. I get it: the world loves Facebook and only I don’t. Oh well.

The story does, though, highlight interesting behavioural patterns when people are online, particularly when engaged in social networking activities. I think it shows up a serious divide in many people’s brains over regulating their actions in the real world and the online one. Did the juror really think she’d get away with it? Did she think that her ‘online persona’ is so divorced from reality that any actions carried out online would not be attributed to her real ‘human’ person? It’s almost as though some people view their online conduct as being separated from reality by a ‘virtual veil’, which their real, human person can hide behind without fear of being troubled by disagreeable repercussions that flow from the actions of their ‘online person’. You know, something analogous to the 'corporate veil' which derives from the twin pillar characteristics that a company is blessed with: separate legal personality and limited liability. No?! Anyone?! No, my girlfriend wasn’t interested either.

Sidenote: I’ve become more than a little bored with studying the majestic intricacies surrounding the corporate veil and its lifting, piercing or otherwise penetrating for what seems like an eternity in my Company law module. It still amuses me that on the LPC in Business Law and Practice it was merely mentioned in passing with perhaps two sentences dedicated to the topic. On the LL.M, though, we’ve dissected it to absolute death and then some, more or less from the start of term. God, I love academia.


  1. Who doesn't like penetrating the veil!! Have you been through the the "morality" of the saloman principle yet *yawn*

    Just wait till you get onto f'ing securities law!

  2. Oh God... Please don't remind me about the Company Law at uni! All we talked about was that stooopid veil.

    And shame on that juror. She should've been done for contempt of court as well!

  3. I second and third the previous comments, it's not one of the best parts of the course. I was still more worried about the fact there's 1300 sections to the Company Act 2006 though.

    There are a lot of reasons you'd like to know when the veil can be pierced - particularly if you actually are trying to get money from a genuinely "at it" company.

    I can't imagine many people would instruct a lawyer if the company that owes them money was meekly paying up, so it's a very handy thing for every lawyer in the country to know even if they have to dig through decades of criminal/family experience to lectures at uni to tell you.

    There's something quite scary about the facebook story - I /really/ want to know if she went the whole way and put a poll up. I suppose that if some people post their entire sex lives to social networking sites then it's understandable that this utterly novel "and the old guy was wearing a wig!!" experience they're suddenly going through would make it into Facebook too.

  4. Lost: I think the debate over the morality of Salomon was started back in lecture 2 in week 1 and has not let up since.

    Andro: Glad to see I'm not the only one infuriated by the reluctance of company law lecturers to move onto a new topic; they all seem to love the veil.
    Not sure finding her in contempt of court but I think the judge should have taken her outside and given her a spanking! Maybe he did.

    Stephen: I knew pretty much what was going to be thrown at me on the LL.M in opting for the 'commercial stream'. I was just voicing my grievances over having to study, recap, mull-over, dissect, study some more, then recap and then start from the beginning again.

    And, as I pointed out in the post, I had studied Company law before in BLP last year on the LPC in that 'interim' year when a good deal less of the CA 2006 was in force than is the case now.

    From what I've read of this juror, she does seem the type of have used a poll. (Whatever that means).


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