Judge says Internet threatens fair trials as Twitter Joke trial goes to high court
The most senior judge in the land has warned that Google and Twitter are threatening the justice system, while the Twitter joke trial of Paul Chamber is also heading for the High Court.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
The most senior judge in the land has warned that Google and Twitter are threatening the justice system. Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge is concerned that jurors using the Internet to reveal details of cases, or accessing material on the Web that may prejudice them, threatens the fairness of the courts.
Speaking of fairness under threat, the Twitter joke trial of Paul Chamber is also heading for the High Court.
Lord Judge is the Lord Chief Justice, as well as being a splendid example of nominative determinism. Judge Lord Chief Justice Chief said that "court-based tweeting is likely to increase the potential for prejudicial material regarding a defendant or a witness to become available on the Internet". He suggests jurors should also steer clear of Googling their case so as not to see any prejudicial information.
An audio recording of court proceedings would see you slapped with a contempt of court charge, but there are no legal guidleines for text-based transmission from a courtroom. Lord Justice Chief wants to make it clear to jurors that jurors misusing the Internet "must stop... if the jury system is to survive as the system for a fair trial in which we all believe and support".
In 2009, the verdict of a trial involving US company Stoam -- which claimed to make insulating material as strong as steel and as light as foam -- was challenged after it was revealed that one of the jurors tweeted that he had "given away 12 million dollars of someone else's money".
Judge Lord Justice Chief Justice Lord also said, "We welcome advances in technology, provided that we are its masters and it is our tool and servant."
That sort of thinking would be welcome at the Twitter joke trial, wherein an unfortunate tweeter has been fined thousands of pounds and given a criminal record for a joke made on the microblogging site.
Paul Chambers' appeal was rejected earlier this month, but with the backing of many online celebrities including Graham Linehan and Stephen Fry, he now plans to challenge the case in the High Court. Having retained a top human-rights lawyer, Chambers is busy raising the £10,000 required to take the fight to the top.