Monday, November 22, 2010

UK Lord Chief Justice Warns Over Court Tweeting

We are going to be hearing a lot more stories like this one about the impact of social media on the court system.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, warned last week that jurors using Google, Facebook and Twitter could threaten the jury system.

Lord Judge, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said new social networking technologies and the Internet made it too easy for jurors to access potentially false and prejudicial information about defendants.

It could also be very easy for campaigners to bombard the social networking sites with the intention to influence the outcome of a hearing.

Coverage from British media:
  • Top judge says internet 'could kill jury system' (BBC News UK, November 19, 2010): "The BBC's Legal Affairs Analyst, Clive Coleman, said: 'This is the strongest and most detailed judicial consideration of the threat to the criminal justice system posed by jurors using modern technology. It raises major questions of how to police and stop internet use'."
  • It's the internet's fault (again) (Computer Weekly, November 19, 2010): "Not content with being blamed for the creation of bullying, pornography, paedophilia and the X-Factor (probably), it seems that now the internet is also about to be responsible for the imminent collapse of a central tenet of British democracy - trial by jury."
  • Tweets and internet put jury system at risk, law chief warns (The Guardian, November 19, 2010): "The lord chief justice questioned whether tweets from a courtroom should be banned, as tape recordings were under the Contempt of Court Act. 'Why is Twitter any different?' he asked. 'This question has yet to be decided, and the decision may have a considerable impact on our processes.' He also called for tougher warnings for jurors over their use of the internet. 'If the jury system is to survive, the misuse of the internet must stop,' he said. 'I think we must spell this out to [jurors] yet more clearly.' He said the warnings to jurors about discussing their trial outside the jury room should be extended to the internet."
  • How Tweeting in court could get you two years in prison… (The Independent, November 19, 2010): "Lord Justice said: ' (...) I have to be blunt about this, but in my view if the jury system is to survive as the system for a fair trial in which we all believe and support, the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop,' he said. 'I think we must spell this out to them yet more clearly.' The most extreme suggestion would be an entirely new judicial system – scrapping the jury – that I could see happening if or when it becomes clear that the risk of prejudice is inevitable, but that isn’t the case now and hopefully, this will never go that far. What has to happen though, is for all of the above to be explained in detail to every jury member – and not just once at the start of their two week duties, but every time the court adjourn, every weekend, every lunchtime, every fag break. It needs to be hammered home because what to me and any other person is an almost natural way of keeping up to date with… well, everything… could potentially cause huge problems."
Earlier Library Boy posts on the topic include:
  • Impartiality of Juries Threatened by Web? (October 22, 2009): "Donald Findlay QC, one of Scotland's top criminal lawyers, has warned that the impartiality of the jury system is at risk due to jurors using internet search engines and has warned that the Government cannot continue with its 'ostrich-like' attitude to the problem (...) "
  • Should Twitter in the Courtroom Be Illegal? (November 11, 2009): "A U.S. federal court in the state of Georgia has ruled that Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits 'tweeting' from the courtroom ..."
  • More Jurors Get Into Trouble for Going on the Net (December 13, 2009): "Last week, a Maryland appeals court upended a first-degree murder conviction because a juror consulted Wikipedia for trial information. Earlier this year, the appeals judges erased a conviction for three counts of assault because a juror did cyberspace research and shared the findings with the rest of the jury. In a third recent trial, a juror's admission to using his laptop for off-limits information jeopardized an attempted-murder trial. On Friday, lawyers for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon asked for a new trial in part because five of the jurors who convicted her of embezzlement Dec. 1 were communicating among themselves on Facebook during the deliberations period - and at least one of them received an outsider's online opinion of what the verdict should be. "
  • Should Judges Join Facebook? (January 12, 2010): "In yesterday's Montreal Gazette, an article about whether Canadian judges should be on the popular social networking site Facebook: 'Amid escalating debate in the U.S. about judicial antics online, the Canadian Judicial Council has turned its attention to whether there should be some ground rules for judges who want to join Facebook and other social networking sites (...) While there are no known cases of Canadian judges on Facebook, participation in the U.S. has reached a level that prompted the Florida judicial ethics committee to issue an edict last month that judges and lawyers should not be Facebook 'friends,' to avoid appearance of conflict in the event they end up in the same courtroom (...)' "
  • U.S. Federal Courts Tell Jurors Twitter, Facebook and Texting Verboten (February 9, 2010): "Wired Magazine is reporting that the Judicial Conference of the United States, the body that develops policy for federal courts in that country, has proposed new model jury instructions that explicitly ban the use of applications like Facebook and Twitter ..."
  • Facebooking in Court: Coping With Socially Networked Jurors (October 13, 2010): "This is the new courtroom reality, one that offers courts less control over what information flows in and out of the jury box. The problem is that, over the centuries, our legal system developed rules designed to ensure that the facts presented to a jury are scrutinized and challenged by both sides. Jurors were asked to hear all the evidence, refrain from sharing opinions and ultimately deliberate in secret. But modern, socially networked jurors accustomed to accessing and sharing information are colliding with this fishbowl experience and disrupting trials in ways few know how to address ..."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:37 pm

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