The Consequences of Not Understanding Social Media
Our team came across a news article out of England regarding a criminal case where web evidence from a Facebook profile was crucial in discovering the truth. The case highlights the growing importance of technology competency in the legal space.
Danny Kay was arrested on suspicion of rape in 2012, was brought to trial at Derby Crown Court in 2013 and eventually convicted. However, the police relied on an “edited and misleading” Facebook conversation between Kay and his accuser.
The Crucial Web Evidence
In 2013, the police presented only part of a Facebook conversation to the jury, leading the jury to believe “that a message from Kay saying “sorry” was over the alleged rape,” and therefore resulted in a conviction. However, after Kay’s sister-in-law, Sarah Maddison, accessed Kay’s Facebook account to uncover the full, archived conversation, “the deleted messages instead showed it had been referring to [Kay’s accuser] asking why he had been ignoring her” (The Sun).
The full context of the conversation supported Kay’s version of events and made it clear to the Court of Appeal that Kay’s accuser had consensually agreed to a sexual relationship with him in 2012.
After spending more than two years in prison, in December 2017, judges ruled the new evidence supported Kay’s claim that the sexual relationship between him and his accuser was consensual.
The “Derbyshire Police said it has referred its investigation to an independent regional review team to “ensure lessons are learned”” (BBC News).
The case illustrates that it’s vital for legal professionals to be technologically competent and to fully understand how social media platforms work. It’s not only a best practice, but a legal professional’s ethical responsibility. Because as this case shows us, only having part of the context can have significant repercussions.
We also know it can be time consuming to keep up with an ever-changing tech landscape, so the Page Vault team aims to provide the necessary tools and content to make collecting web-based content as easy as possible while providing top-quality and forensically-sound results.
Here are some related articles and guides that might help in your next case:
- New Web Content Collection Trends and Rules
- Social Media Ethics: 4 Issues to Consider When Researching Jurors and Witnesses
- Part I of II: Why Capturing Web Content Through Your Basic Browser Isn’t Secure
- What You Can Learn From IL v. Lorenzo Kent