Attorney General to publish advisory notes to help social media users avoid contempt of court

Advisory notes will be published on the gov.uk website and on Twitter from today to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court, Dominic Grieve QC MP has announced.

The move, which comes days after Peaches Geldof tweeted the names of the two mothers who allowed their babies to be abused by convicted paedophile Ian Watkins, looks to warn the public that comment on a particular case needs to comply with the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP said: “Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post. This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system.

“In days gone by, it was only the mainstream media that had the opportunity to bring information relating to a court case to such a large group of people that it could put a court case at risk. That is no longer the case, and is why I have decided to publish the advisories that I have previously only issued to the media.

“This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact, it’s designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way. I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.

“This change also brings more openness to government’s dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say.”

The advisories have previously only been issued to print and broadcast media outlets on a ‘not for publication’ basis.

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