Friday, November 19, 2010

Court Tweeting

Lord Judge has spoken of the threat to the fairness of jury trials from thoughtless use of new technology. In a trial, all that may be taken into account is the evidence presented in the courtroom, but it is only human for jurors to want to know more. At the least damaging level it could amount to looking up a map of where something is said to have happened. At worst it could involve research into the background of the defendants or witnesses or, as is said to have occurred, an electronic poll among your pals as to 'whether he dunnit'. Not too long ago a jury is said to have used an Ouija board to resolve its doubts.

It's not just jurors; I have had to rebuke a colleague who was texting from the bench (not, I hasten to add, about the case) and the retiring room is loaded with i-whatsits, laptops and all the other gadgets at lunchtime. I have used the Net during a multi-day complex trial, but from home, and only to look up a point of law. I have to admit that this is frowned upon because we must rely on the legal advice from our Clerk. In mitigation, I was sitting with a Circuit Judge on this case, so I was just trying to clarify something he had said about an area of law that was new to me.

We shall hear more about this, I suspect.

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