Lord Chief Justice Approves Use Of Twitter In Court

Interesting piece in The Guardian.

The lord chief justice today opened the way for the reporting of some court proceedings by journalists using Twitter, texting and email, but made clear it was unlikely to happen where such use of social media could influence witnesses.

Media organisations and journalists can apply for permission to use social media on a case-by-case basis, but Lord Judge said it may be necessary to bar its use by non-journalists to ensure the “proper administration of justice”, prevent distractions in court and limit the potential for interference with courts’ own recording equipment.

Judge issued interim guidance on the use of social media pending a public consultation involving the judiciary, prosecutors, lawyers, the media and “interested members of the public”. The guidance applies only to courts in England and Wales.

This follows a decision to allow the use of Twitter during the bail hearing of Wikileak’s chief Julian Assange. The judge there decreed that journalist could “send messages if they were discreet and did not interfere with the judicial process”.

Prior to this, unauthorised use of Twitter could have resulted in contempt of court. Indeed, there is still an obvious risk of witnesses being compromised.

“Without being exhaustive, the danger to the administration of justice is likely to be at its most acute in the context of criminal trials, e.g. where witnesses who are out of court may be informed of what has already happened in court,” stated the Lord Judge.

Permission to use Twitter must be made by application and is granted on a case-by-case basis, but this is a very interesting precedent.