Case Tweeting in SA

South Australia have followed in New South Wales’s footsteps allowing for lawyers and journalists to be able to use modern technology for court reporting.

However, the state has added a mandatory delay.

Reporting on any evidence will not be permitted to be published before a 15 minute time lapse.

The move allows time for the suppression of any information to be processed.

More can be read here.

Social Court Reporting

The Bo Xilai case in China has been more like a reality TV show than a criminal trial. Seriously I feel like I should be texting in ‘SAVE BO’ to 191 545.

The former Conhquing party politician is being charged with bribery, corruption and abuse of power.

The media spectacular has attracted millions of followers online. All glued to the minute-by-minute proceedings published live on this SinaWiebo microblogging page.  (Note: This site is in Chinese)

Now I’m not too sure how many of you have actually ever read a fraud case but the legal concepts are really pretty dry. Don’t believe me? Try this case out.

If all trials were run like this (especially fraud cases) they would be so much more exciting!

But is this really the future of court reporting in China?

Some such as Professor Tong Zewie believe this is a breakthrough and will lead to more open trials in China. He believes this case will set precedent for the future and hopes that China is led away from the judicial corruption which it has historically been plagued with.

However, others are not so convinced with sceptics voicing their opinion that the Chinese government is just attempting to create a sense of transparency for political reasons.

The main criticism is that the Chinese government has only chosen this case because of the strong resentment towards Xilai from Chinese citizens. Therefore the likely incarceration and the trial in itself is not likely the cause political controversy.

Some even go further, such as this feisty blog, which argues that the trial is merely a PR stunt.

Only time will tell but hopefully this is a step for China towards the right to a fair trial and a wider application of the rule of law.

Who’s the Twit in the Court?

As demonstrated by recent Australian high profile criminal cases, such as the Meagher, Morcombe and Baden-Clay murders, the justice system are having to consider the effects of new media on the governing constitutional right to a fair trial.

In the USA and UK there have been a number of cases whereby jurors and witnesses have been caught using social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to comment on the case they are involved with.

Legally this amounts to contempt of court and is considered a serious violation of the justice system.

Although this is not yet a major issue affecting Australian courts, NSW have decided to cut the head off the snake enacting an amendment to the NSW Court Security Act (2005).

The newly incorporated section prohibits the ‘unauthorised transmission of court proceedings from the courtroom’ including communication through the use of tablets, smartphones and laptops.

Violation of this act carries with it fines of up to $22,000 and up to 12 months imprisonment.

There has been a significant amount of backlash amongst journalists in relation to these amendments arguing that the restrictions are a violation of freedom of speech. However, under section 9(2)(d) of the act, journalists and lawyers are exempt from the provision.

Which begs the question of whether this is just another overreaction from the media?

Yes it is true, the act eradicates citizen journalism in the courtrooms as explored in this blog.

However, it must be remembered that this is an individual’s life we are talking about not the newest Cake Pop recipe on Pinterest.

Court reporting should be left to professional journalists who have extensive knowledge of the laws and understand the degree of sensitivity needed in addressing legal proceedings.  This appears to be a move in the right direction towards a more amiable coexistence between new media and the courts.