Postcard from The Staterooms: Christmas 2010 edition

Dear Reader,

This will be my last Postcard From the Staterooms before Christmas, so I thought I would start with a picture of me and Vince Cable.  Can you tell the difference? Have you ever seen us in the same room together?

I am, as it happens, looking forward to Christmas.  I shall spend it alone, through choice…and I shall paint and write.  It is quite possible that I shall also tweet.  Last  Christmas Day I painted a Charonasso as part of my F**kArt series….

I have no idea what painting I shall do on Christmas day this year… but, I suspect, it will be mildly surreal.

They say it will be a White Christmas this year.  A quick look outside the window and the hysteria on the news channels confirms that this may be so.  Fortunately, I do not need to travel anywhere – all supplies needed are but a hundred yards away and I have a spade. I am quite handy with a spade, given my experience as a gravedigger when I dug graves to assist with my bar and legal education bill when I was reading law all those years ago.

The Assange coverage continues unabated and while I have taken the view, not unreasonably, that due process should take its course, the news coverage continues unabated. There is, of course, a certain irony in this…..from The Australian.

Lawyers cry foul over leak of Julian Assange sex-case papers

And The Guardian / Observer has covered all bases by being critical of Mr Assange : Julian Assange furore deepens as new details emerge of sex crime allegations and here: 10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange

I can only repeat my view that trial by twitter/press or television is just not acceptable and repeat that I have absolutely no view on whether Assange is or is not guilty of the rape allegations (however defined)  – for one can only be guilty in terms of the prosecution of crime when found to be so by a court.

The blogger formerly known as Iain Dale has waded into / climbed aboard the Assange bandwagon by writing for Middle England by turning it into a political issue…as, of course, others have done. Iain Dale flagged his Mail on Sunday story on twitter several times  suggesting that he may ‘upset’ a few people. Here is the Dale piece…

He preaches openness but demands privacy. He reveals ‘secrets’ but 99% are prurient gossip. He’s accused of rape but won’t face his accusers. Why do the Left worship the WikiLeaks ‘God’?

I am pleased to report on a matter of far greater importance than Mr Dale’s views on Assange that The White Rabbit is back in London. This means …. drinks with Charon…soon.  The White Rabbit’s blog is always worth a visit.  The White Rabbit reports…..

Finally… a very interesting article in The Independent…

Who’s afraid of the interweb? Judges to rule on Twitter in court

The Independent: Should journalists be allowed to tweet from court?

It’s become a question of some urgency since Tuesday, when district judge Howard Riddle gave the nod for reporters to tweet proceedings from inside Westminster Magistrates’ Court during Julian Assange’s bail hearing. It is a matter of such importance that the Lord Chief Justice has already announced there is to be a consultation on live reporting.

Tuesday’s ruling prompted some commentators to hail the dawn of a new era. By Thursday, however, journalists, bloggers and others interested in reporting how justice was being done in Assange’s case were back to good old-fashioned pen and paper after Mr Justice Ouseley ruled against posting to Twitter from court. Too distracting, he said.

Too distracting? In my experience, courtrooms can be uniquely distracting places. Silence in court, while an irreproachable instruction, is hellishly difficult to achieve. Courts have to contend with a cacophony of sneezing, coughing, whispering, endless standing up and sitting down, heavy things being dropped, paper shuffled, possessions ordered and reordered, quietly dramatic entrances and exits, muttered remonstrations, water being poured, gulped and spilt, prodding, tapping, snorting and grunting, and that’s just the lawyers.

Any “disturbance” caused by people tweeting is arguably minor by contrast. After all, electronic devices can be switched to silent.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no statutory ban on tweeting in court. While the pre-digital age Contempt of Court Act 1981 does not allow sound recordings to be made without the court’s permission, and prevents photographs being taken or sketches made in court, it doesn’t prohibit creating text using electronic devices. Judges do, however, have the power to set the rules for behaviour in the courtroom and that is why Mr Justice Ouseley was able to rule against tweeting in the High Court last week.

Judging by some of the tweeting I see late at night – and participate in…. I suspect that the judicial rules on tweeting from court should contain a requirement that the tweeter be sober.

Have a good week..and, of course, a good Christmas.

Best, as always


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