Press release

Attorney General to warn Facebook and Twitter users about contempt of court

Future advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court

Advisory notes from the Attorney General will be published on the gov.uk website and twitter from today to help prevent social media users from committing a contempt of court, Dominic Grieve QC MP has announced.

The advisories, which have previously only been issued to print and broadcast media outlets on a ‘not for publication’ basis, are designed to make sure that a fair trial takes place and warn people that comment on a particular case needs to comply with the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

The change in policy is designed to help inform the public about the legal pitfalls of commenting in a way which could be seen as prejudicial to a court case or those involved.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP said:

Blogs and social media sites like Twitter and Facebook mean that individuals can now reach thousands of people with a single tweet or post. This is an exciting prospect, but it can pose certain challenges to the criminal justice system.

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.

This is not about telling people what they can or cannot talk about on social media; quite the opposite in fact, it’s designed to help facilitate commentary in a lawful way. I hope that by making this information available to the public at large, we can help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law, and make sure that cases are tried on the evidence, not what people have found online.

This change also brings more openness to Government’s dealings with the media so that both sides can be accountable to the public for what they do and say.

The advisories will be published on the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) section of the gov.uk website and also through the AGO’s twitter feed, @AGO_UK

types of contempt of court dealt with by the Attorney General’s Office

Background:

  1. The Attorney General has issued ten media advisories so far this year, the most ever issued by the Attorney General’s Office.

  2. On average, he issues around five advisories a year.

  3. Advisories have previously been issued around cases such as: the murder of Tia Sharp, Sgt Danny Nightingale’s Court Martial and the arrest of Christopher Jefferies.

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