UK allows journalists to tweet in court

20 Dec 2010

The UK Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has said Twitter can be used by journalist in courts, but they will need permission to do so first.

The judge said the use of Twitter was permitted only for journalists, as the large number of people tweeting on phones could interfere with the sound-recording equipment in the court.

He also said the decision to allow its use would be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the risk of interference to the administration of justice, such as if witnesses outside the court find out what’s happening in the court before being called to give evidence.

This comes after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s court hearing on his bail application last week, where journalists asked if they could tweet on the case as it went. The judge permitted them to do so.

However, at the High Court later that week, another judge said they could not tweet on the proceedings.

As a result, the Lord Judge gave interim guidance for the use of “live text-based forms of communication” in the court, which is pending a public consultation.

The guidance covered the use of mobile email, social media and internet-enabled laptops in the court.

It noted that, with the use of such mediums of communication, the court “must be satisfied that its use does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case.”

Phones must, in general, be turned off in the court, but an application can be filed in order to activate the phone or laptop to use Twitter services.

The guidance also noted that permission can be withdrawn if proceedings are “adversely affected.”