WikiLeaks Trial Causes Judge to Allow Twitter in UK Courtrooms

WikiLeaks has impacted global diplomatic channels, the media, political reputations and our conception of free speech – and now it’s affecting the law. In a ruling Monday, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Judge declared that Twitter is unlikely to be disruptive to court proceedings, and should be provisionally allowed in the courtroom. This is a direct response to the Twitter fiasco surrounding last week’s bail hearing and appeal for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

The Wallstreet Journal Blog reports that Lord Judge ruled Twitter to be “generally unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice” because it is accessed through an “unobtrusive, hand held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment”.

Lord Judge does set aside some caveats, saying that Twitter might be detrimental to witnesses in criminal trials, or that it might reveal information about evidence. He notes that it should be accepted or rejected in a courtroom on a trial-by-trial basis, but that it should be generally allowed.

This ruling is in direct response to Julian Assange’s bail hearing and subsequent appeal last week. Reporters were given free-reign to live-blog the bail hearing, and many journalists turned to Twitter for just that. However, two days following the bail hearing during Assange’s appeal, the ruling judge banned Twitter and similar services from the courtroom completely.

Twitter has also been implicated in the US legal system in recent weeks, with a defense team claiming that Twitter was part of the reason their client lost his case.