The United Kingdom Supreme Court has ruled that text-based communications such as posting on micro-blogging service Twitter will be allowed in court hearings.
It comes after Lord Phillips, president of the Supreme Court, admitted that content generation technology has brought opportunities and challenges for the justice system, but that there was no reason why what occurs in a hearing should not be communicated to the outside world.
The rapid development of communications technology brings with it both opportunities and challenges for the justice system, said Supreme Court President Lord Phillips. An undoubted benefit is that regular updates can be shared with many people outside the court, in real time, which can enhance public interest in the progress of a case and keep those who are interested better informed.
We are fortunate that, by the time a case reaches the Supreme Court, there is very seldom any reason for any degree of confidentiality, so that questions about what should and should not be shared with those outside the courtroom do not usually arise, Phillips added.
This means that we can offer a green light to tweeting and other forms of communication, as long as this does not disrupt the smooth running of the court.
A press notice issued by the Supreme Court announced the decision that journalists, legal teams and the public will be able to communicate via live text-based devices directly from the courtroom. However, they stipulated exceptions in cases where there are formal reporting restrictions in place, family cases involving the welfare of a child and cases where publication of proceedings might prejudice a pending jury trial. Those attending such cases will be informed by notices placed at the doors.
The press release says the use of such technology in providing regular updates to those outside the courtroom will enhance public interest in the progress of a case.
Tweeting was given the green light because, the press release explains, by the time a case reaches the Supreme Court, there is very seldom any reason for any degree of confidentiality.
The ruling only applies for Supreme Court cases, as they are not brought before witnesses or juries.