Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Technology Overtakes Law

I referred a few weeks ago to the alleged abduction of a young girl by one of her teachers. She was freely named in the press, and photographs of her were widely published. Once the case came to court a 'section 39' order would have been made prohibiting the publication of anything that might serve to identify the young person. The Children and Young Persons Act was passed in 1933 when the press and communications networks were very different from what we see today.
The invaluable Crime Line reports on a case and includes a transcript of the Judge's remarks. Section 39 will either need to be smartly amended, or quietly left to one side while a 21st century-compliant form of order is devised. It will be interesting to see how Mrs. Sally Bercow's inadvertent breach of S39 on Twitter turns out. She may well get away with it.


  1. Silly Sally Bercow has bigger problems dealing with Lord McAlpine's lawyers, I should have thought.

  2. I fail to see how Ms Bercow's activity has in any way contravened S39 of the 1933 Act.

    The object of her twittering was not, after all, a young person.

    1. Quite apart from mentioning Lord McAlpine's name in circumstances that led him to begin legal action, Mrs. Bercow also managed to identify by name the young lady that ran away to France with her maths teacher, in contravention of a S39 order.

  3. Bercow has deleted her account. As to the Forrest case you in Britain must face the reality that police states ONLY operate within their own borders. Injunctions have NO national boundaries in cyberspace.

  4. Lord McAlpine seems to be letting twitter offenders off with an apology and a £5 donation to charity, so unless Sally Bercow is singled out for special treatment she should be OK on that front. And it has to be mentioned that her twit did not actually contain anything defamatory about his Lordship - it merely asked the question as to why he was so prominent on Twitter at this time. If sued she would probably win - if she has the resources to defend the case.

    The court order prohibiting the naming of a young person is more contentious. Was Mrs Bercow ever served with this order? Or is she expected to be cognisant of all orders handed down by all courts in the land? This seems unrealistic. Most likely she has not breached the order because she was never shown it.

  5. Nationalist : The way the system of orders and injunctions works, one is expected to be cognisant. Same goes for injunctions not to publish, orders for disqualification from driving (or in other courts to act as a company director) and so on. Yes, it is unrealistic. But no, I am not the Lord Chancellor.

  6. It has been announced hat the Law Society is conducting an inquiry into the laws of contempt in the context of modern media.


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