Following recent debates between news commentators on whether tweeting in court proceedings should be allowed, the most senior judge in the United Kingdom has given the green light in a ruling on the issue. The historic ruling by the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales said that live text-based communication can be permitted as long as it does not interfere with the administration of justice. While the ruling takes immediate effect, it will only serve as interim guidance pending an official review on the issue.
Consequently, the press and members of the public, will be allowed to give up-to-the-minute updates on court cases via Twitter or Email with devices such as smart-phones and Internet-enabled laptops, with the permission of individual judges. Before permission can be granted, the judge will consider the risk posed to the proper administration of justice and must be satisfied that its use does not pose a danger of interference in the individual case. So far, there are mixed reactions from commentators on the issue. However, some of the following concerns are being raised:
- Distractions caused by possible interference with the courts sound recording equipment as a result of the several mobile devices being used at any given time.
- Recording sound or images during court proceedings is currently illegal, as it is a form of public broadcasting.
- Most courts do not allow the possession of cameras within the court premises which is present in most smart/mobile phones today.
Overall, the controversy appears to have been initiated by the absence of a statutory prohibition on the use of text-based electronic communications in court hearings at the present time. Thus, it appears once again that technology is growing at such a rate that even the courts have to play catch-up.
The ruling was prompted after journalists used Twitter to give real-time updates at the bail hearing of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Should tweeting be allowed in court proceedings?