Courts bring in ban on members of public tweeting about trials from courtroom

Courts bring in ban on members of public tweeting about trials from courtroom
File photo.

From today, members of the public will no longer be allowed to tweet about a trial from the courtroom.

The Chief Justice has announced new guidelines in relation to social media use in the public gallery while a trial is in session.

Using Twitter and other social media platforms has brought court proceedings to a much wider audience, and that is to be welcomed. However, it is not without its potential pitfalls.

An accused person is entitled to a fair trial and court reporters must abide by certain strict rules to ensure that right is protected throughout.

To eliminate the risk of a member of the public tweeting or publishing something online that may prejudice a trial, the Chief Justice Frank Clarke has today announced a ban on anyone other than bona fide members of the press and lawyers from using social media, or text messaging in any form, in courtrooms.

In a speech earlier, he said the potential for unregulated social media to have an impact on the fairness of the trial process itself is a legitimate and particular concern on the judiciary.

The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, welcomed the ban saying: “The right to a fair trial is one of the most fundamental rights in society. It is essential that we protect it and ensure the integrity of the trial process.

The use of social media from within Courts has become highly controversial, not only in this jurisdiction, cutting across the law of contempt and judges’ powers of contempt.

"I welcome this move by the Chief Justice, limiting the use of texting and tweeting from Court to bona fide members of the media and lawyers in a case will help ensure only those fully aware of the limits of what they can report and when will report live from a courtroom.

"he wider issue of the law of contempt and the use of social media in the Court context is currently under consideration by the Law Reform Commission who will be producing a full report in quarter 1 of 2019. ”


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