Prosecutors to Facebook screen potential jurors

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New Zealand looks set to introduce digital blueprint screening for potential jurors, checking through social media, financial statements and the Charities Register in the jury selection process.

Director of Jury Selection Services, Stephen Iorns told RadioLIVE in New Zealand that the process is completely legal in New Zealand.

“People don't want anyone to look at their social media presence – they can take steps to ensure that their social media accounts are private, that there's nothing that we can look at,” Iorns said. "When they place information in the public domain, they're simply putting it there.”

Though relatively unheard of in the Southern Hemisphere, the process has been commonplace in the United States for some time.

Professor Bill Hodge at the University of Auckland said while the new vetting system may level out the playing field, giving defence counsel the ability to background check jurors as the Crown already does, the new process may act as a deterrent to jurors, The New Zealand Herald reported.

“If you know that your details are out there for people, it may or may not unconsciously have an effect on the way a juror goes about their deliberations,” he said.  “It might well find a way for them to seek an excuse to be exempted or excused from being empanelled.”
“It's hard enough to get people to do jury service,” he added.

Iorns said that the information is private and potential jurors won’t know when they are being investigated.