What now for contemptuous tweeting and media innuendo in the privacy injunction saga? – Judith Townend
In a precise and incisive blog post, Judith Townend writing on the Informm blog writes:
The BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, reported:
“The posts on Twitter point up what for some time has been a concern that there’s one rule for the mainstream media and little or no rule for individuals publishing in breach of injunctions online.”
But is that a valid concern? The mainstream media has also got away with some heavy innuendo about the identities of the claimants – so far.
Those breaching the orders may well face serious penalties. One leading media law lawyer told me that the view is that people are testing how far they can go with the injunctions.
Sooner or later someone will take committal proceedings or sequestration proceedings, he suggested.
“Once someone loses a lot of money people will think twice about giving information that helps to identify the claimant.”
Reading tabloids recently – and even some broadsheets – it may seem to the jaundiced eye that celebrities have ‘suddenly’ been featuring in articles even when they have no film, book or other product to punt. There has been a fair bit of innuendo in the press. In practical terms, the writ of the High Court of England & Wales can only constrain those who publish within the jurisdiction of England & Wales. Judith Townend makes the important point that mainstream media is advised of superinjunctions. The rest of us are not.
She states: “A social media user who is aware of the injunction posts the name of someone whose anonymity is covered by the order commits a criminal contempt of court, he explained. Unless they have taken serious steps to conceal their online identity then their identity can be found out by means of a Norwich Pharmacal order.”
Joshua Rozenberg makes the point that if a tweeter is unaware of the injunction, the tweeter cannot be in contempt. If the tweeter is aware of the injunction – through twitter, for example - then liability for contempt will arise. The Spartacus phenomenon… or safety in numbers – where thousands tweet the same information may cause a headache, but, theoretically at least, contempt proceedings could be brought.
It was noticeable on twitter yesterday – when a twitter account revealed information (obtaining countless thousands of followers in a very short time) that a number of regular lawyer tweeters made no reference to the twitter account, nor did they re-tweet. Indeed, Adam Wagner of The UK Human Rights blog took time to remind his followers about the laws of contempt. A re-tweet is, of course, a further publication? I repeat again, my cynicism, shared by David Allen Green who takes a ‘skeptical’ stance, that the mainstream media are well aware that the Mosley judgment is being handed down tomorrow – and that judgment may well be most inconvenient for their freedom of speech… or, more accurately, their freedom to increase revenues by ‘dishing the dirt on the shaggers’. Public interest? I rather suspect that many who clamour for freedom of speech would be less enthusiastic if their private lives were subject to public scrutiny. I could be wrong, of course. And, of course, what of the rights of the innocent party – the wife and children of ‘the superinjuncting shagger’?
Injunctions, Twitter and the law
The Guardian’s Organ Grinder blog runs with the story…..So, can the courts stop all this injunction-busting chat on Twitter? And can tweeters be made liable?
Meanwhile.. Lord McNally, a Minister of State for Justice, digs up an old favourite to amuse himself….
The judiciary is becoming more diverse, but too slowly
Yes… the judiciary could be more representative of the community… but judges are not politicians, they are not ‘elected’, they are drawn from the legal profession. the profession is ‘doing diversity’ or, at least doing their best to appear to be so doing, and it will take time. It is astonishing that we still only have one female judge in the Supreme Court. That will change in time. 60% of the profession is now made up of women. Some women may well leave the profession for family and other reasons before being eligible for judicial office. The same’principle’ holds true for ethnic minorities in terms of access to a career in the profession. The demographics are changing.
The irony is, of course, that with the rising costs of legal education – it is going to become ever more difficult for students from less privileged backgrounds to consider a career in law without taking on fantastic debt – so we may well be ‘sleep walking’ back to the days of a largely middle class, white, legal profession and future judiciary?
What we don’t need is positive discrimination and fast tracking – where we end up with judges who would not have been selected strictly on merit. That merely serves to undermine the justice system and patronises those selected. It may well take time before our judiciary is truly representative of the population at large?
And..finally… a retrograde step?
Theresa May hands power to prosecute back to police
The Guardian: Home secretary wants police, rather than crown prosecutors, to make decision in more than 80% of cases