Interim guidance issued this morning by the Lord Chief Justice says individuals will be given permission to switch on a mobile phone or other small electronic device "in order to make live text-based communications of the proceedings", if a formal or informal application to the court is made.
The guidance issued states that judges can authorise live reporting on a case-by-case basis, but warns that it could be dangerous in criminal trials where witnesses outside of court may be influenced.
According to the new guidance judges can limit the use of Twitter to "representatives of the media for journalistic purposes" and disallow its use by the wider public. If the use of mobile equipment interferes with the courts own sound recording or proves distracting a judge can also limit its use, it says.
"There is no statutory prohibition on the use of live text-based communications in open court. But before such use is permitted, the court must be satisfied that its use does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case," says the guidance.
"Subject to this consideration, the use of an unobtrusive, hand held, virtually silent piece of modern equipment for the purposes of simultaneous reporting of proceedings to the outside world as they unfold in court is generally unlikely to interfere with the proper administration of justice."
In the guidance, the Lord Chief Justice also announced the launch of a consultation on the use of live, text-based communications. The Secretary of State for Justice, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) and the Society of Editors will all be involved in the consultaiton.
Last week, the district judge overseeing the second bail hearing of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange gave journalists and others explicit permission to tweet the proceedings, following a request by the Times' special correspondent Alexi Mostrous.
However, at the prosecution's appeal hearing the following day Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that journalists and others should not send tweets during proceedings.
Last month the Lord Chief Justice discussed the issue of live reporting via Twitter and other platforms when speaking at the Judicial Studies Board Lecture in Belfast, saying he not find a statutory prohibition "on the use of text-based remote transmission of material from a courtroom".
"How is the principle of open justice compatible with preventing an ongoing, live and text-based dialogue to the outside world from a courtroom? If a reporter of member of the public is permitted to write notes to himself or herself in court, and then "file them" from a telephone outside the court, what is the qualitative difference if they are permitted to do so when sitting in court, say, by sending a email."
"We must always welcome new technology," he added. "When jury trials began there was no electricity: there were no typewriters: people came to court by foot or on horse back. We now use technology for many purposes, to the public advantage. We do turn on lights: we even put some heating into the building. So judges are not antediluvian.
"We welcome advances in technology, provided that we are its masters, and it is our tool and servant. But we need to examine the impact on our jury system with great care, and an increasing need for urgency, just because technology is developing at an astonishing rate."
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