justice scales law
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Changes to contempt by publication legislation, in relation to online publishing, have been recommended in a report published today by the Law Commission.

Under the current law, anyone who publishes information online that poses a substantial risk of seriously prejudicing a trial can be fined or imprisoned if the content is not removed once criminal proceedings become active. A court can also order a publication in contempt to be removed or made inaccessible on the internet.

The onus is on the publisher to know that proceedings are active and to remove any at-risk content for the duration of proceedings.

However, in the recommendations laid out by the report, publishers would be exempt from liability when information is published for the first time before proceedings become active.

Criminal proceedings become "active" as soon as a person is arrested, a warrant for arrest or summons is issued, or a person has been charged. Details on when cases continue to be active until, such as in the event of the accused being acquitted or convicted, are available on the CPS website.

A spokesperson from Guardian News & Media said they were still considering the detail of the report.

"We have noted the new proposals to deal with the problem of contempt and archived material, which we envisage could have a mixed impact on publishers," they said.

The Law Commission, an independent body, also recommends making it an offence for jurors to intentionally search for information beyond evidence presented in court, for example, by searching the web.

It also recommends providing a broader defence for jurors who disclose potential miscarriages of justice.

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