CONTEMPT update – experiment in collaborative scholarship

By MARK PEARSON

Both of my recent books are relatively up to date but anyone researching media law in traditional and new platforms knows how quickly the landscape is changing.

It’s for that reason I’m launching some collaborative update pages that take in some of the key chapters from both The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law (with Mark Polden, 2011) and Blogging and Tweeting Without Getting Sued (Allen & Unwin, 2012).

I’ve removed the copyright symbol © from these posts so these pages can serve as a resource for anyone in the fields of media law and social media law – students, journalists, lawyers, researchers, teachers … and even those writing competing books on the subject! (Remember, however, that we can’t steal the actual words of contributors when we write up the cases or materials they scout for us – we will need to verify the material and links and write them up using our own form of expression.) 

 I’ll get the project started with contributions from some of my own students and research assistants working on other projects and the material will appear in no particular order. Please offer your own alerts via the comments section of each topic’s blog post. (Remember there is word limit on comments so please keep contributions under 300 words).

Let’s get started with this update on Contempt law – both Australian and international – with this first set of contributions from law and journalism student Edward Fleetwood (thanks, Edward!).

We now also have a DEFAMATION update.

Cheers, Mark Pearson.

—–

Update September 18, 2012 from Edward Fleetwood:

The Mail Online was ordered to remove articles that contained information expressly excluded from the trial of police officer Simon Harwood

Title: Regina v Simon Harwood

Authors: Mr Justice Fulford

Date: 20 July 2012

Location: Southwark Crown Court

Link: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/media/judgments/2012/simon-harwood-judgment-20072012

-          PC Harwood was charged with the manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson the G20 protest in London

-          Judgement concerns two reports on Mail’s Online concerning alleged incidents of violence on the part of defendant, PC Harwood

-          On 22 May 2012 – Justice Fulford decided that the prosecution was not entitled present evidence related to two previous incidents so as not to prejudice the jury

  • 25 May 2005 when the defendant allegedly used unnecessary force in the arrest of Mr Owusu-Afriye
  • 24 November 2008 defendant allegedly twisted the arm of Mr Samms when arresting him

-          However, a number of newspaper websites had articles that included details about the 2 incidents

  • Additionally social networking sites such as Facebook had published “posts” that referred to these allegations and websites and blogs run by particular individuals also expressed their own personal opinions

-          31 May 2012 – Justice Fulford sent a letter to the main websites advising them to remove the relevant articles otherwise they can make submissions before the judge

-          15 June 2012 – Justice Fulford after hearing media submissions ordered publications to be removed by 8:00am Monday 18 June 2012 before the jurors began to arrive, otherwise those responsible would be in contempt

-          Once the trial began, most news sites, Wikipedia and most “bloggers” had complied, EXCEPT The Mail Online which still had 2 articles online, dated 23 July 2010 and 4 September 2010

-          Paras [22]-[35] detail the submissions of the Mail Online and the Crown Prosecution Service

-          Justice Fulford posed two questions to determine whether the Mail Online was in contempt

  • Are the two articles in the Mail Online publications for the purposes of Contempt of Court Act (CCA) section 2(1)?
    • Section 2(3) of CCA “at the time of the publication” encompasses the entire period during which the material is available on a website from the moment of its first appearance through to when it was withdrawn
    • 2 articles continued to be “published” whilst the proceedings were active
  • Do the two articles in the Mail Online create substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be seriously impeded or prejudiced?
    • In determining whether PC Harwood’s push of Ian Tomlinson was reasonable force the jurors had to assess his state of mind at the time
      • If jurors discovered that PC Harwood had an alleged history of violent and irrational behaviour then their judgement of him may be prejudiced
      • A juror, looking for contemporary articles on the trial, could easily come across the 2 articles THEREFORE the publication constituted a substantial risk of impeding or prejudicing the course of justice

-          What steps should the court take?

  • Approach taken by court will depend on circumstances
    • Judge may refer matter to Attorney General for possible prosecution
    • Judge may suggest to party to make an application to the High Court for an injunction
    • However, Justice Fulford believes that Crown Court (trail court) should deal with the matter as any other remedy will likely cause “delay, expense and prejudice to the defendant and the witnesses”
  • Justice Fulford satisfied issuing an injunction for relatively short period of the trial was necessary and proportionate
    • Also not incompatible with the right of freedom of expression under Article 10 (1) of the European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
  • On 16 July 2012 – Justice Fulford ordered the removal of the two articles

House Committee looking into embattled MP Craig Thomson was concerned confidential information was leaked to a journalist

Title: Report concerning the possible unauthorised disclosure of the internal proceedings of the Committee

Authors: House of Representatives Standing Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests

Date: August 2012

Location: Canberra, Australia

Link:

-          On 24 May 2012 Michelle Gratten, a journalist, published articles in the online version of The Age and in the print edition of The Age of 24 May 2012 (Appendix A)

-          The articles included unauthorised disclosure of the internal proceedings of the Committee’s private meeting held on 23 May 2012

  • Committee was meeting to discuss embattled MP Craig Thomson’s address to parliament

-          Asked by the Committee about the sources, Ms Gratten would not discuss any matters to do with sources

  • Ms Gratten stated: “…the whole question of sourcing of material involves confidentiality and that journalists do not breach that confidentiality. This is how we operate in my trade… We accept the consequences of them.”

-          Committee reiterates the view from a 1994 report that “it is also important that where it is necessary to do so the Houses are willing to proceed against those who knowingly publish the material”

-          Committee made it clear to the Press Gallery journalists and their publishers that a potential contempt can be committed in the act of publishing material from parliamentary committees that has not been authorised for publication

-          As noted in 1994 Report the House has a number of remedies available for contempt

  • Withdrawal of access to the building
  • Briefing for members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery on the authorised disclosure of committee evidence and proceedings

Committee recommends

-          Adoption of Appendix C

  • (1)(f) Where an unauthorised disclosurehas been made the Committee should consider
    • (i) Whether it is appropriate to make a finding of contempt in relation to the publication of evidence or proceedings
    • AND (ii) whether recommendations are made to the House for the imposition of appropriate penalties on the journalists or news media involved

-          Process of approval of Parliamentary Press Gallery/Media Pass so that all pass holders are aware of prohibition of unauthorised disclosure of committee proceedings

—–

California has passed a law prohibiting jurors from using social media and the Internet to research or disseminate information

Title: New California Law Prohibits Jurors’ Social Media Use

Author: Eric P. Robinson

Date: 1 September 2011

Location: California, USA

Link: http://www.citmedialaw.org/blog/2011/new-california-law-prohibits-jurors-social-media-use

-          The new statute 2011 Cal. Laws chap. 181 expands the state’s existing jury instructions by barring jurors from communicating outside the jury room

-          Sponsor of the legislation, Assembly Member Felipe Fuentes said “Although current law arguably prohibits the use of electronic/wireless communication devices to improperly communicate, disseminate information or research, the fact that this kind of communication is not expressly included in current law has resulted in increased problems in courts across the county.”

-          The new law has been in effect since 1 January 2012

—-

Mauritian newspaper editor appealed directly to the Privy Council after being found in contempt for scandalising the court

Title: Mauritian editor in scandalising case seeks Privy Council appeal

Authors: Media Lawyer

Date: 10 August 2012

Location: Mauritius

Link: http://www.societyofeditors.co.uk/page-view.php?pagename=Courts&parent_page_id=149&news_id=4334&numbertoprintfrom=1&language={language}

-          Dharmanand Dhooharika, Editor-in-Chief of Mauritian French-language Samedi Plus has appealed directly to the Privy Council

-          Mr Dhooharika was sentenced to three months imprisonment for scandalising the court after his paper ran articles that contained allegations about how the Chief Justice handled a particular case, Paradise litigation

  • Articles contained allegations made by one of the parties to the case, Dev Hurnam and his comments about his attempt to have the Chief Justice charged with contempt of court

-          In this petition to appeal to the Privy Council Mr Dhooharika is arguing that

  • The offence of scandalising the court is contrary to the right to freedom of speech guaranteed in the Mauritian constitution
  • Mr Dhooharika was unable to give evidence in his defence
  • The Supreme Court accepted without question that the Mr Hurnam’s comments were “highly defamatory”
  • The charges were only brought against Mr Dhooharika and Samedi Plus even though other Mauritian media outlets report Mr Hurnam’s allegations

 —-

Ignorance of the law no defence for a journalist who did not ask for permission to communicate with backpacker murderer

Title: Reporter has no conviction recorded for jail interview

Authors: Kristy O’Brien

Date: 22 August 2012

Location: Darwin, NT Australia

Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-08-22/rahni-sadler-bond-no-conviction-murdoch-tv-interview-darwin/4215634

-          Bradley John Murdoch is serving a 28-jail sentence for the murder of British backpacker Peter Falconio in 2001

-          July 2011 permission was granted for Murdoch to communicate with his lawyer Andrew Fraser

  • Under Northern Territory law, a prisoner requires permission to make and receive calls from the Director of Correctional Services

-          During the call, Mr Fraser handed the phone to journalist Rahni Sadler

  • Ms Sadler conducted an interview with Murdoch which was then aired on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program

-          Ms Sadler was subsequently charged with communicating with a prisoner without permission from the Director of Corrective Services

-          In the Darwin Magistrates Court, her lawyer argued that Ms Sadler sought advice from her employer who instructed who that as she was speaking form another jurisdiction it was legal

-          However, Ms Sadler was convicted and given a 12-month good-behaviour bond with no conviction recorded

 —

High Court of Australia has indicated that directions given by a trial judge are essential in addressing media publicity

Title: Dupas v The Queen (2010) 241 CLR 237

Authors: French CJ, Gummow, Hayne, Heydon, Crennan, Kiefel and Bell CJ

Date: 2010

Location: Victoria, Australia

Link: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/HCA/2010/20.html

-          Before Peter Norris Dupas’ murder trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria an application was made on his behalf for a permanent stay of the trial due to pre-trial publicity

-          Trial judge, Cummins J rejected the application and his Honour gave detailed directions to the jury before, during and after the trial to exclude all information other than evidence presented during the trial

-          Jury found the accused guilty

-          He appealed and the Victorian Court of Appeal ordered a new trial

-          He then appealed to the High Court on the question of whether a stay of the trial or a retrial should have been granted

-          There was substantial media publicity for Dupas’ trial as a result of two prior murder convictions, appeals for those convictions and the third murder charge

-          Over seven years coverage included

  • Information on seven internet sites
  • Approximately 120 newspaper articles
  • Four books
  • A number of television programs

-          Although there was substantial pre-trial publicity, trial judge Cummins J concluded that he had “very responsible confidence that the jury, appropriately directed, will firewall its deliberations and verdict from extraneous considerations and from prejudice in this case.”

-          At paragraph 21, the High Court includes the direction that Cummins J gave to the jury

  • Among other directions, his Honour instructed the jury that they should not decide the case on anything outside the court, do their own homework or look up anything on the internet

-          In his application to the High Court, Dupas sought to rely on the example given by Deane, Gaudron and McHugh in R v Glennon that there could be an ‘extreme’ or ‘singular’ case where a stay would be granted due to a “sustained media campaign of vilification and prejudgment”

-          However, the High Court dismissed this application and said:

  • “In seeking to apply the relevant principle in Glennon, the question to be asked in any given case is not so much whether the case can be characterised as extreme, or singular, but rather, whether an apprehended defect in a trial is “of such a nature that nothing that a trial judge can do in the conduct of the trial can relieve against its unfair consequences”

 —

 Even Lords may be in contempt for their tweets

Title: Judge ordered Lord Sugar to remove expenses ‘tweet’

Authors: BBC News

Date: 26 May 2011

Location: United Kingdom

Link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13560438

-          Lord Taylor was on trial for expenses fraud, the last in a series of trials of the an expenses scandal

-          Trial judge, Justice Saunders suppressed any reporting on the trial

-          However, Lord Sugar, a Labour peer and host of the UK version of the Apprentice, on the second day of the trial tweeted:

  • ‘Lord Taylor, Tory peer, in court over alleged expenses fiddle. Wonder if he will get off as he is a Tory compared to Labour MP who was sent to jail.’

-          When Justice Saunders was informed of the tweet he cleared the court and said “can someone contact Lord Sugar and get that removed”.

-          A spokesman for Lord Sugar said he was unaware of any reporting restrictions as he was out of the country and he removed the tweet within 20 minutes

-          His Honour also referred the matter to Attorney General Dominic Grieve who ultimately decided not to bring charges against Lord Sugar

-          In referring the matter, Justice Saunders said “I reported the matter to the attorney general not for the purpose of taking any action against Lord Sugar but to investigate whether entries on Twitter sites of high profile figures relating to trials which were going to take place or were taking place posed a risk of prejudicing the fairness of a trial.

-          “And if so whether there were steps that could be taken to minimise that risk.”

—-

Twitter may be in contempt for not handing over the tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester

Title: Twitter’s in ‘contempt’: DA

Authors: Garett Sloane

Date: 8 September 2012

Location: New York City, NY USA

Link:http://www.nypost.com/p/news/business/twitter_in_contempt_da_IhsRlQ7Cp93GAZdLRvpMhJ

-          Malcolm Harris, an Occupy Wall Street protester is facing misdemeanour charges following an arrest during a march over the Brooklyn Bridge

-          The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has requested Twitter to hand over three months’ worth of messages tweeted by Mr Harris

-          In June 2012 Judge Matthew Sciarrino Jr. ruled that the Tweets had to be handed over

-          Although Twitter has appealed that decision, it may still be in contempt for not handing over the tweets

-          Twitter argues that users own their own tweets and that users should fight requests for information

-          However, Judge Sciarrino ruled Twitter, and not Mr Harris, had to fight the subpoena

—-

Man behind the iconic Obama ‘Hope’ poster has narrowly missed a jail term for destroying documents on his computer

Title: Shepard Fairey gets two years’ probation in Obama ‘Hope’ poster case

Authors: David Ng

Date: 7 September 2012

Location: New York City, NY USA

Link: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-shepard-fairey-associated-press-obama-20120905,0,7012633.story

-          Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles street artist, created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster from a 2006 an Associate Press photograph of the former senator

-          Mr Fairey claimed he had used a photo from another source

-          However, in 2009 he admitted to destroying documents and submitting false images in his legal battle with AP

-          In February 2012, Mr Fairey pleaded guilty to once count of criminal contempt for destroying documents, manufacturing evidence and other evidence

-          7 September 2012, Mr Fairey received a sentence of two years’ probation, a $25,000 fine and 300 hours of community service

-          In a statement he said that his actions had not only been “financially and psychologically costly to myself and my family, but also helped to obscure what I was fighting for in the first place — the ability of artists everywhere to be inspired and freely create art without reprisal.”

 —-

Media outlets need to be cautious about the information they publish when juries are still deliberating

Title: HM Attorney General v Associated Newspapers Ltd & Anor [2012] EWHC 2029 (Admin)

Authors: President of the Queen’s Bench Division – Sir John Thomas

Date: 18 July 2012

Location: United Kindgom

Link: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2012/2029.html

-          Levi Bellfield was on trial for the attempted kidnapping of Rachel Cowles, aged 11, on 20 March 2002 and the kidnapping and murder of Milly Dowler, aged 12, on 21 march 2002

  • As a side note – allegations that News of the World reporters had accessed Milly Dowler’s voicemail led to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal

-          The jury retired on 22 June 2011 and returned the next day to convict Bellfield for the kidnapping and murder of Milly Dowler

-          However, the jury continued their deliberations in relation to the attempted kidnaping of Rachel Cowles

-          The assistant head of communications at the Crown Prosecution Service sent e-mails to various media organisation reminding them that proceedings were still active and nothing should be reported

-          However, articles the following morning in the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror contained information that had not been before the jury

-          On 24 June 2011 counsel for Bellfield applied to have the jury discharged from giving a verdict in respect of the attempted kidnapping of Rachel Cowles

  • The judge agreed finding that there had been “… an avalanche of material which strayed far beyond either the facts of what happened yesterday or the facts of the offences”

-          The matter was then referred to the Attorney General to determine wither the publication of the material on 24 June 2011 contravened the strict liability rule under the Contempt of Court Act 1981

-          Analysing the articles

  • Articles in the Daily Mailcontained information that
    • Bellfield may have committed the murders of Lin and Megan Russell
    • Police may have tenuous evidence connecting Bellfield to the drug induced rape of girls aged between 14 and 16
  • Articles in the Daily Mirrorcontained information that
    • Bellfield sexually abusing previous partners Johanna Collings and Emma Mills
    • His boasting about raping a disabled girl on a car bonnet

-          From the information published in the respective papers, his Honour determined that there was a real risk that the jury would have thought that the additional material was relevant to the remaining count of attempting to abduct Rachel Cowles

  • Essentially, the allegations of Belfield’s interest in and depraved conduct to young girls was highly prejudicial to the count that the jury was still considering

-          Finding the papers in contempt of court the judge invited submissions from the Attorney General and counsel for the two newspaper on the penalty

—-

(Posted earlier)

New Zealand Courts will temporarily postpone open justice to ensure a fair trial

Title: Siemer v Solicitor-General [20120 NZCA 188 (11 May 2012)

Authors: O’Regan P, Harrison and Wild JJ

Date: 11 May 2012

Type of source – case of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand

Country: New Zealand

Link to source: http://www.nzlii.org/nz/cases/NZCA/2012/188.html

-          9 December 2010 Winkelmann J, Chief High Court Judge, delivered a judgement in R v B, which was a pre-trial ruling as part of the highly published Hamed proceedings

-          At the top of the 9 December judgement read:

  • THE JUDGMENT IS NOT TO BE PUBLISHED (INCLUDING ANY COMMENTARY, SUMMARY OR DESCRIPTION OF IT) IN NEWS MEDIA OR ON INTERNET OR OTHER PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE DATABASE OR OTHERWISE DISSEMINATED TO THE PUBLIC UNTIL FINAL DISPOSITION OF TRIAL OR FURTHER ORDER OF THE COURT. PUBLICATION IN LAW REPORT OR LAW DIGEST IS PERMITTED.

-          Vincent Siemer, who owns two identical websites, published an article Judge or be Judged on his website that discussed the case, the suppression order and included a hyperlink to the judgement

-          The judgement discusses the differences between the courts in New Zealand and England

  • New Zealand – “In recognising the inherent power to postpone publication, New Zealand law has settled on striking the balance in favour of the right to a fair trial whenever it conflicts with freedom of expression and the principle of open justice, and then only on a limited and temporary basis. And, significantly, as we shall explain, the legislature has not chosen to intervene.” [78]
  • English position – courts do not have an inherent power to make non-publication orders and can only do so when it is authorised by statute (Contempt of Court Act 1981)

-          Explanation at [71] that criminal proceedings have become subject of increasingly intense public scrutiny due to established and social media

-          Result – appeal dismissed, Siemer was given a sentence of 6 weeks imprisonment

—-

Similar to shredding of important documents, destruction of material on social media may amount to contempt

Title: Discovery in the information Age – The interaction of ESI, Cloud Computing and Social Media with Discovery, Depositions and Privilege

Authors: Michael Legg and Lara Dopson

Type of source: Journal Article – referenced as [2012] UNSWLRS 11

Country: Australia

Link to source: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/journals/UNSWLRS/2012/11.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=Contempt%20AND%20social%20media

-          Paper focused on how the legal profession needs address the rise in discovery documents as a result of electronically stored information (ESI)

-          Average social media profile contains many potentially useful and discoverable details, including

  • Person’s hometown, date of birth, address, occupation, ethnicity, height, relationship status, income, education, associations, “likes,” and comments, messages, photos and videos

-          Although Facebook and Twitter have strengthened their privacy settings, the sites may pass on any material to the justice system

-          Similar to shredding or burning paper documents, deleting relevant material on social media sites may amount to contempt of court

-          Social media sites may even be forced to provide evidence of material being deleted

  • Palavi v Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Ltd – plaintiff’s Facebook page stated: “This is gonna sound stupid but how do I get pics of my iphone that I don’t want? Like ones that have synced from computer?

-          Admissibility – as social media becomes more mainstream evidentiary issues of authentication and hearsay may arise

 —-

English Courts will not find a person in contempt of court when they are discussing a trial before a magistrate or judge

Title: John Terry trial: Twitter’s contempt for the rules

Authors: David Banks

Date: 9 July 2012

Location: UK

Link to source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jul/09/john-terry-case-twitter

-          Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United player, tweeted about the trial of John Terry

  • John Terry had been accused of racial vilifying Anton Ferdinand, Rio’s brother

-          Rio has more than 3 million followers and more than 3,287 had retweeted his comments with 355 making it their favourite

-          However, Rio will most likely not face contempt charges as a John Terry’s trial is by magistrate alone

-          Therefore, the tweet fails the “substantial risk of serious prejudice or serious impediment to active proceedings” as the judiciary are expected to be impartial

-          UK Law Commission is looking at issue of contempt and the internet with a report due in 2014

 —-

A young teenager may faces contempt charges for tweeting the names of the two boys who sexually assaulted her

Title: Teen fights back with Twitter

Authors: APN New Zealand Ltd – The Daily Post (New Zealand)

Date: 23 July 2012

Location: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Link to source: http://global.factiva.com.ezproxy.bond.edu.au/redir/default.aspx?P=sa&NS=18&AID=9BON000400&an=APNTDP0020120723e87n00017&cat=a&ep=ASI

-          A teenage girl was the victim of sexual assault after she passed out at a party

-          The attackers, two teenage boys were charged with first-degree sexual assault and misdemeanour voyeurism

-          Although the matter was in juvenile court, the girl tweeted the boys’ names in frustration with her attackers’ plea bargain

-          Her tweets read

  • “They said I can’t talk about it or I’ll be lock up”
  • “So I’m waiting for them to read this and lock me up. – justice”
  • “Protect rapist is more important than getting justice for the victim in Louisville”

-          She could face a US$ 500 find and up to 180 days in jail if found guilty of contempt of court

… then ….  Due to public pressure contempt charges against a teenager who tweeted the names of her attackers were dropped

Title: Kentucky teen Savannah spared contempt charge after naming attackers on Twitter

Authors: AP

Location: Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Link to source: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57478443/kentucky-teen-savannah-dietrich-spared-contempt-charge-after-naming-attackers-on-twitter/

-          On 23 July 2012 Savannah X was spared a contempt of court charge

-          Attorneys for the boys dropped their motion to charge her with contempt

-          The story attracted national and international attention after she was at risk of being found in contempt

-          In one day, an online petition on Change.org gathered 62,000 signatures in support of her actions

 —-

To respond to the Googling juror alternatives besides sub judice contempt and suppression orders should be considered

Title: Protecting the right to a fair trial in the 21st century – has trial by jury been caught in the world wide web?

Authors: Roxanne Burd and Jacqueline Horan

Type of Source: Journal Article in Criminal Law Journal – (2012) 36 Crim LJ 103

Country: Australia

Link to source: (may need to go into Legal Online – browse Criminal Law Journal Volume 36)

http://legalonline.thomson.com.au/jour/resultDetailed.jsp?curRequestedHref=journals/CRIMLJ/volumes/36&contentSourceHref=journals/CRIMLJ/volumes/36/parts/2/articles/103/fulltext&tocType=fullText&hitListPageContext=http://legalonline.thomson.com.au/jour/resultSummary.jsp?tocType=fullText___curRequestedHref=journals%2FCRIMLJ%2Fvolumes%2F36___start=21&searchId=2&hit=21&hits=25&articleType=fulltext&freeText=&titleCode=Ptrtaftit2chtbjbcitwww

-          The rise of the Googling juror has challenged the administration of criminal justice

-          Since January 2009 in the US alone, 21 trials have been overturned or ordered for re-trial because of jurors conducting online searches

-          Authors propose that the system needs to acknowledge, accept and work from a starting point that once empanelled, some jurors will conduct online searches

-          Three Australian states have legislated to penalise jurors if they conduct online searches

-          However, the authors believes that such legislation encourages defence counsel to seek out inquisitive jurors and it also infringes the rights of jurors

-          They instead propose

  • A national suppression order scheme – although difficult to implement a national scheme would avoid the Underbelly sage
  • Remedial procedures – Voir dire, sequestration of jurors, change the trial venue/delay the trial, permanent stay of proceedings, increase media sanction
  • Alternatives to trial by jury – mixed jury, trial by judge alone

-          While sub judice contempt and suppression orders have a role to play in criminal proceedings, they are ill-equipped to deal with the Googling juror

—-

Signing an e-petition multiple times may constitute contempt of parliament

Title: Trigger-happy petition backers warned of contempt

Authors: Daniel Hurst

Date: 20 June 2012

Location: Brisbane, Australia

Link to source: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/triggerhappy-petition-backers-warned-of-contempt-20120619-20m07.html

-          Queensland Speaker Fiona Simpson warned that the signing of an e-petition multiple times could constitute contempt of parliament

-          The Speaker said that she saw that on an e-petition to preserve the current Civil Partnerships legislation a person’s name had appeared 17 times

-          She instructed the Clerk of the Parliament, Neil Laurie to contact the person and warn them that their actions may constitute contempt

-          Ms Simpson said “I am satisfied at this time with the action taken. However, should these persons attempt to undertake such an action again, I will refer the matter to the Ethics Committee as a breach of privilege and contempt.”

-           Contempt of Parliament can attract a fine, and if not paid, imprisonment

—-

UK Law Commission will be examining contempt laws as it believes they are unsatisfactory in dealing with social media

Title: Contempt

Authors: UK Law Commission

Date: 2012

Location: UK

Link: http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/areas/contempt.htm

-          New report on contempt

-          Consultation will open winter 2012 and a final report in spring 2014

-          Different forms of contempt

  • Common law
  • Strict liability offence in Contempt of Court Act 1981

-          However, law has failed to take into account cultural and technological advances –

  • Blogs and social networking has enabled public the opportunity to publish opinions and information about imminent and on-going criminal proceedings

-          Project (report) will consider how current law on contempt can be reformed so that it takes into account and deals with the internet

  • It will also rationalise and simply criminal offences related to contempt

—-

 Twitter may face censoring in India

Title: Indian government warns Twitter over not censoring tweets

Authors: Dara Kerr

Date: 21 August 2012

Location: India

Link: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57497828-93/indian-government-warns-twitter-over-not-censoring-tweets/

-          After censoring Facebook and Google, the Indian government is pressuring Twitter

-          Requests for censorship follow recent violence between Muslims and indigenous communities in northeast India allegedly fuelled by social-media

-          If Twitter does not censor certain content then the In

-          In blocking Web sites and social networks the government hopes to prevent threatening messages that have incited violence

-          In January, Twitter announced that it would be willing to remove tweets on a country-by-country basis when there are local restrictions

… and …

Indian Government has defended its censorship of the Internet, including Twitter, in order to prevent civil unrest

Title: Indian Government Defends Social Media Crackdown

Authors: Gardiner Harris and Malavika Vyawahare

Date: 24 August 2012

Location: India

Link: http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/indian-government-defends-social-media-crackdown/

-          Indian Government demands for censorship follows unrest in India’s northeast and riots in Mumbai

-          Some of the sites blocked have included general news sites – British newspaper The Telegraph and TV network Al Jezeera

-          Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia, spokesman for India’s Home Ministry, said that the government has sought to remove/block 310 web pages and sites with most providers agreeing to the request

-          However, Twitter has expressed technical difficulty with finding and removing these sites

-          Harish Khare, media advisor to the Indian PM from June 2009 to January 2012 said that changing technology has put new demands on the government

-          “If someone sits in Morocco or Boston and says we should have absolute freedom, just to satisfy them we cannot have riots in our country,” he said.

—-

Social media users with an interest in cold cases need to be cautious about the information that they post

Title: Police: Don’t use social media to post about case

Authors: Victoria Grabner

Date: 26 August 2012

Location: Henderson County, Kentucky, USA

Link: http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/aug/26/police-dont-use-social-media-to-post-about-case/

-          It has been 17 years since Heather Teague disappeared

-          She was 23 when she was pulled by her hair into the underbrush of Newburgh Beach in Henderson County

-          On the anniversary, police have warned local residents that making false statements on social media sites Topix, Facebook and Twitter is unacceptable

-          “Unfortunately, upon investigation, these claims proved to be false. Those who make false statements about any open or cold cases on social sites need to be aware that charges may be sought for falsely reporting an incident.” (Kentucky State Police Trooper Corey King)

—-

Be very careful about the content on a Facebook page that you create and administer

Title: Bendigo Facebook sex rater gets jail

Authors: Elise Snashall-Woodhams

Date: 22 August 2012

Location: Bendigo Magistrates Court, Victoria, AUS

Link: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/237376/bendigo-facebook-sex-rater-gets-jail/?cs=80

-          Two male accused set up Benders Root Rate Facebook page in June2011

-          The page encourage people to rate the sexual performance of past partners and included sexually explicit and degrading comments about girls as young as 13

-          In Bendigo Magistrates Court, Leading Senior Constable Lindsay Riley explained how a young girl, who is still under 18, had come to police with a complaint about being named and slandered on the site

-          The police followed the complaint and one defendant gave full admission about creating and administering the site

-          He was charged with and pleaded guilty to using a carriage service to offend and using an online information service to publish objectionable material

  • He also pleaded guilty to a series of unrelated traffic and theft offences

-          In sentencing, Magistrate Wright said “I need to send you and others a message”

-          Magistrate Wright sentenced him to 4 months jail on each of the two Facebook related charges as well separate charges of obtaining property by deception

  • The terms will be served concurrently for an effective sentence of 4 months

-          He will appeal the sentence (NB: watch for appeal in the Victorian County Court)

2 Comments

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2 responses to “CONTEMPT update – experiment in collaborative scholarship

  1. Great article! We are linking to this particularly
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  2. Pingback: DEFAMATION update – an experiment in collaborative scholarship | journlaw

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