Attorney General launches campaign to combat contempt of court on social media

Michael Ellis is fronting a campaign to improve public awareness on how posting certain information online could prejudice criminal proceedings.

The Attorney General has launched a campaign warning of the risk of posting information to social media which could prejudice criminal proceedings, urging the public to think before they post.

Michael Ellis QC said the new public awareness campaign will offer guidance on what information, if posted publicly online, could leave social media users at risk of being held in contempt of court.

It says that, while everyone has the right to discuss or comment on what they see in the news, they must stay on the right side of the law, which is in place to ensure that a trial can take place unimpeded.

The campaign warns that aborted trials affect not only the defendant, but also the victims and witnesses, who will then have to go through an often traumatic experience all over again.

“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and everyone deserves a fair trial. The issue is really about discussing matters which should only be raised for the first time in front of the jury,” the Attorney General said.

“A misjudged tweet or post could have grave repercussions and interfere with a trial. A post on social media could mean a trial is delayed or at worst stopped because a fair trial isn’t possible, so I would caution everyone – don’t get in the way of justice being done.

“It is not only journalists or lawyers who can be found in contempt of court, ordinary members of the public can also do so and find themselves facing their own legal consequences.”

The campaign is using the hashtag #ThinkBeforeYouPost and will run on social media until July 2.

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