Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Offers Guidelines on Twitter in the Courtroom

England's top judge, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (that is his name), has offered some Interim practice guidance on the use of Twitter in English courtrooms. There is to be a consultation on courtroom use of "live, text-based communications" very soon.

Photographic and sound recording of court proceedings still remain prohibited.

Excerpts from the guidance document:
"10. There is no statutory prohibition on the use of live text-based communications in open court. But before such use is permitted, the court must be satisfied that its use does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case. "

"11. Subject to this consideration, the use of an unobtrusive, hand held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is generally unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice."

"12. The normal, indeed almost invariable, rule has been that mobile phones must be turned off in court. An application, whether formally or informally made (for instance by communicating a request to the judge through court staff) can be made by an individual in court to activate and use a mobile phone, small laptop or similar piece of equipment, solely in order to make live text-based communications of the proceedings."

"13. When considering, either on its own motion, or following a formal application or informal request, whether to permit live text-based communications, and if so by whom, the paramount question will be whether the application may interfere with the proper administration of Justice. The most obvious purpose of permitting the use of live, text-based communications would be to enable the media to produce fair and accurate reports of the proceedings."

"14. 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 and so coached or briefed before they then give evidence, or where information posted on, for instance, Twitter about inadmissible evidence may influence members of a jury. However, the danger is not confined to criminal proceedings; in civil and sometimes family proceedings, simultaneous reporting from the courtroom may create pressure on witnesses, distracting or worrying them. "

"15. Two further considerations are material:
a. if, having given permission for such use, the court proceedings are adversely affected, permission may be withdrawn; and,
b. it may be necessary for the judge to limit live, text-based communications to representatives of the media for journalistic purposes but to disallow its use by the wider public in court. That may arise if it is necessary, for example, to limit the number of mobile electronic devices in use at any given time because of the potential for electronic interference with the court’s own sound recording equipment, or because the widespread use of such devices in court may cause a distraction in the proceedings."
Coverage of the new interim rules:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:26 pm


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