Social media users to be warned of contempt risk
The Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP has announced that his Office will in future publish advisory notes online, and publicise them by way of the AGO Twitter feed, @AGO_UK. The notes, which were previously circulated on a “Not For Publication” basis to print and broadcast media, are issued in relation to trials which are likely to attract comment, and remind recipients of their obligations under the Contempt of Court Act 1981. The Contempt of Court Act 1981 applies to all ongoing cases, not merely those which are the subject of a note from the Attorney General, but the notes serve as a reminder and may flag particular issues in relation to trials which are controversial and high profile. The decision to publish these notes has the aim of warning social media users of their obligations when publishing material online and to minimise the risk of prejudicing an ongoing trial.
The Attorney General said: “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.”
The Attorney General’s Office issues an average of 5 advisory notes per year, but has issued 10 so far in 2013. Advisory notes have previously been issued, for example, in relation to the murder of Tia Sharp, Sgt Danny Nightingale’s Court Martial and the arrest of Christopher Jefferies.