Twitter to be used in Essex courts

The Lord Chief Justice 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 might influence witnesses reports journalism.co.uk

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 adminstration 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.

It follows a district judge’s decision to allow the tweeting of a bail hearing for Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks chief, earlier this month. Assange faces extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion.

Under the guidance, anyone wanting to tweet from a courtroom will first need the permission of the judge, who will consider the risk posed to the administration of justice.

This would be at its highest in criminal trials where witnesses who are out of court would be able to find out what has already happened.

The decision follows the news that hyperlocal news site London SE1 struck a blow for press freedom last week by getting its local council to change its policy on audio recordings of meetings.

Southwark Council in London has recommended that journalists and members of the public be allowed to make audio recordings of full council meetings.

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