Facebook blunder halts rape trial
DRAMA unfolded in the Maryborough District Court Friday.
The trial of rape-accused Thomas Michael Maher was abandoned after red flags were raised around the conduct of one of the jury members.
Judge David Reid was informed that the man had searched for the alleged victim on Facebook and shared the information he saw with other members of the jury.
"I explicitly told you not to do that," barked Judge Reid.
"You have wasted the time of all the people in this room," he said.
"Your actions were unfair to the complainant, unfair to the defendant and unfair to the other members of the jury," explained Judge Reid.
He said information sourced externally by jury members could influence the outcome of the trial.
"What you did could have resulted in an incorrect acquittal or an incorrect conviction," he said.
When asked why he searched for the young woman on social media, the jury member said he was "curious."
He apologised to the court before being ordered to leave the building.
Judge Reid called the remaining 11 jury members to their benches and explained what had happened and why he had to bring proceedings to a halt.
He thanked those who brought the incident to the court's attention.
Judge Reid then turned to Mr Maher in the dock.
"Bail is enlarged," he said.
Mr Maher pleaded not guilty Wednesday to two charges of rape and one of sexual assault.
The Crown alleged the 19-year-old attacked the woman in a Maryborough park after a night out in December 2018.
Judge Reid emphasised the charges against Mr Maher had not been dropped.
The trial will restart on a date to be determined by the district court.