The Supreme Court has issued new guidance on tweeting in the Court. In a press release published today the Court stated that given that cases in the Supreme Court ‘do not involve interaction with witnesses or jurors, and because there is rarely any reason why what is said in court should not be placed immediately in the public domain, the Justices of the Supreme Court are content with legal teams, journalists and members of the public communicating to the outside word what is happening in the courtroom.’
However, tweeting will not be allowed in cases where there are formal reporting restrictions or in ‘cases involving the welfare of a child, and cases where publication of proceedings might prejudice a pending jury trial.’ Lord Phillips stated that ‘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.’
The guidance issued by the Supreme Court follows a debate that took place late last year over the appropriate use of live court room tweeting. Differing rulings over the use of twitter during the bail hearing of wikileaks founder Julian Assange led to the Lord Chief Justice ruling that ‘live text-based communication would be allowed as long as the judge believed it would not interfere with the administration of justice’. The Supreme Court’s guidance adopts a more welcoming stance, the default position being that tweeting is allowed.
The new guidance appears to be part of the Supreme Court’s continuing emphasis on accessibility. Hopefully the next step will be to make hearing recordings, currently recorded but available only on request, more widely accessible.