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Tuesday, 14 June 2011

"Twits Can Twitter"

Tweeting in court for first time

A court case in Jersey yesterday is believed to have made legal history in the island after 'tweeting' was allowed - and Channel Television were there to put it into action.

The judge hearing former Senator Stuart Syvret's case regarding his alleged unfair dismissal yesterday allowed information from the proceedings to be posted on social network website Twitter by those in the courtroom.

It is believed to be the first time the social network site has been used from court in the island.

Tweeting is now the most instant way for the public and journalists to get information out.

On Monday Channel Television covered Syvret's case. The hearing began by Mr Syvret asking the presiding Judge, Jonathan Sumption QC whether he would mind people tweeting from Court.

He had no objections, nor did anyone else. So for the rest of the day our reporter Iselin Vale tweeted updates from the Royal Court - a first for Channel Television.

But it does raise a number of issues - what guidelines should we go by, when would it be inappropriate, and probably most importantly, could it ever interfere with the proper administration of justice?

Jersey currently has no statutory guidelines regarding tweeting in court.

The UK however, operates under a December ruling from the Lord Chief Justice that tweeting is permitted provided it does not interfere with the legal process.

Subject to that, the ruling read: "...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."

It goes on to say: "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."

The UK is about to conduct a consultation on the use of text-based communication in court, involving various representatives of the legal system and the media. The outcome of that will decide whether current guidelines should stand.

But for now it seems judges really rule their own court - deciding on a case by case basis whether social media is the right medium.


  1. "could it ever interfere with the proper administration of justice?"


  2. voiceforchildren said...


    On another note, I see CTV are boasting that they made history by being the first to tweet from a court case in Jersey. But they just can't bring themselves to admit that it was a Blogger who made the request to tweet and not the "discredited" media.............. How very sad.