Rules around social media use in court to be examined

By Aura McMenamin

Rules surrounding the use of social media during court proceedings could be introduced following the Jobstown trial.

Justice Susan Denham said there were ‘widespread’ and real concerns about the use of social media in court, including the dissemination of false information and the need to protect a person’s right to a fair trial.

Dublin Courts 4

The announcement was made by Justice Denham as she launched the Courts Service Annual Report 2016 yesterday.

She said: “There are genuine concerns over the dissemination of false claims, which damage social debate, learning, and understanding.”

Her comments come after concerns that members of the public were using social media prejudicially during the Jobstown trial, with defendant and Solidarity TD Paul Murphy being warned by the Director of Public Prosecution over tweets he made during the trial.

While journalists are allowed to tweet within court reporting guidelines, members of the public must be granted permission by a judge

Justice Denham, who is due to retire this week, said she would send a draft paper to the presidents of each of the four courts in Ireland.

Justice Denham said it would 'be naive' if legislation didn't evolve with social media use: “There are several areas we need to address in protecting the right to a fair trial of an individual in this era of social media.

“The fundamental right to a fair trial does not change in the face of any new means of communication. Rules can and must reflect the new reality of same.”

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