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Go-ahead for tweeting by journalists reporting the courts in England and Wales

By Hamish Mackay

December 15, 2011 | 3 min read

Journalists in England and Wales have been given the all-clear to Twitter, text or e-mail from courts– without needing to seek official permission in advance.

However, in Scotland, special permission of the court will still be required to use devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, pending a review.

Media website Hold The Front Page reports that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, handing down new guidance on using laptops and hand-held devices to communicate directly from courts in England and Wales yesterday, told journalists present: “Twitter as much as you like from today.”

But he warned that permission to use live, text-based communications from court may be withdrawn “at any time” if it appeared to be interfering with the administration of justice.

Interim guidance, explains HTFP, was first issued on December last year under which journalists had to make an application to a judge to request permission to use electronic devices to send text.

However, Lord Judge has removed the requirement from yesterday following a public consultation.

Points out HTFP: “The move clarifies a grey area in the law which has previously seen different rulings applied to different regional newspapers.

“For instance, while the Northern Echo was year granted permission to Tweet live updates from the trial earlier this year of a village postmaster accused of murdering his wife, Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle was denied a similar opportunity in the trial of two men accused of helping killer Raoul Moat during his murderous rampage.”

Although there will no longer be any need for representatives of the media and legal commentators to apply for permission to use text-based devices to communicate from court, members of the public will still have to make an advance application.

Lord Judge said: “It is presumed that a representative of the media or a legal commentator using live, text-based communications from court does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case.

“This is because the most obvious purpose of permitting the use of live, text-based communications would be to enable the media to produce fair and accurate reports of the proceedings.”

However, meantime, journalists covering court cases in Scotland will still not be allowed to openly use live text-based communication.

BBC Scotland reports: “Scotland's Lord President, Lord Hamilton, said following the change in England and Wales: ‘I note the guidance issued today [Wednesday] by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales on the use of live text-based communication from court.

“I will give full consideration to this guidance and its implications with a view to formulating suitable guidance in Scotland".

Earlier this year, the trial judge in the Tommy Sheridan perjury case agreed that reporters could tweet the sentencing outcome.


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