Government issues warning to social media users
A new campaign has been launched warning of the legal consequences of prejudicing the judicial process via social media.
The #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign aims to highlight the dangers of committing contempt of court online.
The campaign will provide advice and guidance on what information, if posted publicly, could leave social media users at risk of being held in contempt of court.
Contempt of court refers to behaviour which undermines or prejudices judicial proceedings or interferes with the administration of justice, or creates a real risk of that happening.
The same rules apply to members of the public as they do to journalists, especially when posting on social media.
These rules are in place to protect an open justice system and ensure fair trials and the fair treatment of defendants, victims, and witnesses.
Contempt of court can be punished by a fine or up to two years in prison.
Michael Ellis, the Attorney General, announced the campaign saying: “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and everyone deserves a fair trial.
“The issue is really about discussing matters which should only be raised for the first time in front of the jury.
“A mis-judged tweet or post could have grave repercussions and interfere with a trial.
“A post on social media could mean a trial is delayed or at worst stopped because a fair trial isn’t possible – so I would caution everyone, don’t get in the way of justice being done.
“It is not only journalists or lawyers who can be found in contempt of court, ordinary members of the public can also do so and find themselves facing their own legal consequences.”
Some examples of social media posts which could constitute contempt of court
- She’s definitely guilty, she’s done it before and did two years in jail. Hope she gets a massive jail sentence #throwawaythekey
- He is back in court next week – we’ve all seen him deal drugs to kids down the pub. He needs to go down!! Definitely guilty #nodoubt
- When are the police going to charge Robert? He’s hit her before and went to anger management – obvs didn’t work #chargehim
- Dora has been arrested before for a different crime - no chance she’s innocent this time then #sendherdown