Who did I know who could have views on Twitter and courtrooms? So here is a quick guest post by Paul Chambers.
Today the Lord Chief Justice gave the greenlight for live text-based communication to be allowed during court proceedings.
These guidelines, of course, relate primarily to Twitter. The issue of live-tweeting proceedings poked its head during my own recent appeal, as the nature of it involved Twitter itself and the hunger for instantaneous information was apparent.
I am not for one second saying that my own tribulations led to today's ruling. It is somewhat fitting that it should come about because of the trial of Julian Assange, that the courts allowed themselves to be more transparent while the man at the centre of the world's attention for bringing transparency to EVERYTHING sits in his extradition hearing.
Mr Assange aside, today's guidelines are great news. For too long what goes on inside those doors has been shrouded in secrecy. It is right that we should be able to see how things play out in real-time, specifically where the proceedings involved may have wider issues for the public at large. Until now, we have depended on after-the-event reporting, where more often than not opinions have been formed and slants applied by the time it reaches us.
I would urge caution.
Used correctly, Twitter in court could be a fantastic tool. Live-tweeting of events exactly as they happen will allow us to see things as they are and form our own opinions, rather than receive those of others, and it could alleviate potential misreporting of the facts. Going back to Mr Assange, and from my own personal experience, inaccuracy and presumption is commonplace. Live-tweeting should eliminate this entirely and transform the way we receive information...
I shall reiterate "if used correctly".
The potential to misuse this opportunity is great. Reporters themselves could still choose to spin information or omit facts to their own end. The speed in which they will have to operate will hopefully reduce this but could then also lead to mistakes.
In court, everything is scrutinised and scrutinised again, so it is key that correct information is transmitted. The guidelines themselves do not expressly limit live-tweeting to journalists alone, meaning members of the public could have the ability to do so as well. Members of the public who may not have the experience and so will have to rely on their own judgement on what information they relay. Again, this could lead to dilution of the facts and some information which should not leave the courtroom under any circumstances is exposed.
Judges' discretion is still foremost with the use of live-tweeting. If it is misused, we will quickly find this new transparency taken away from us, or regulated so much so as to not be worthwhile.
Yes, it is great news that this ruling has been given today, but we all have a responsibility to ensure it stays that way.
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