December 20, 2010

According to {a BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12038088}, tweeting from court is to be allowed after a ruling from the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales.

Lord Judge takes the view that ‘live text-based communication’ should be allowed as long as the judge believes it will not interfere with the administration of justice. His ruling was prompted after journalists used Twitter at the bail hearing of Julian Assange.

Of course Lord Judge is right in principle, but I am not sure he has taken prison overcrowding into account. The history of twitter is littered with the ill-considered tweet that had unexpected and unfortunate effects – look at poor old {Paul Chambers: http://www.scl.org/site.aspx?i=bp18068}. My immediate reaction to the report is to wonder which profession will end up in prison first – will it be the careless journalist looking for a cheap laugh, the bored barrister awaiting his turn and revealing to his followers what he really thinks about the judge or the trainee solicitor who is supposed to be taking notes but who really doesn’t want to be there?

I am betting on the lawyers to be first. If some of the remarks about judges that I have heard in robing rooms or at post-case drinks were repeated on twitter, the judge would be digging out his old black cap let alone considering imprisonment for contempt. And those highly confidential pieces of background information have been known to be mentioned to a friend (perhaps even a Facebook friend) – it will happen on Twitter too.

I am sure SCL members will bear in mind that judges can access Twitter and that they are capable of searching online too. But there will be fools that don’t even consider the possibility – and we’ll laugh.

That’s something to look forward to in the New Year whatever the weather.