Legal warnings for tweeters

Social media users have been warned they could be breaking the law by commenting on court cases online. The Attorney General will issue previously unpublished advisory notes to help prevent people committing a contempt of court.

Expert: 'Easy to prosecute' some social media users

Social media users who knowingly break court orders by posting prohibited information online, such as the identities of James Bulger's killers, can "easily" be prosecuted, a legal expert has warned.

Joshua Rozenberg
Joshua Rozenberg warned twitter users to listen to reporting restrictions before posting online. Credit: DaybreakITV

Last week a man who tweeted images purporting to be of James Bulger's killer Jon Venables as an adult, received a suspended jail sentence for contempt of court at the High Court.

Joshua Rozenberg explained: "If you can show that somebody knew that there was a court order in force, as this man last week, who was very nearly sent to prison - in the end he got a suspended sentence and a hefty financial penalty.

"But if you know that there is a order saying you can't publish a picture of Jon Venables, then it is obviously more easy for the Attorney General to prosecute you."

Careless tweets have landed celebrities in trouble

Careless tweets have landed a host of celebrities in trouble in the past with comedian Alan Davies, Sir Bob Geldof's daughter Peaches and Sally Bercow all finding themselves in legal difficulties due to their online posts.

Sally Bercow found herself in trouble due to sending a careless tweet. Credit: Max Nash/PA Archive

Social media users have also found themselves in contempt of a court - nine people admitted naming the woman raped by footballer Ched Evans on Facebook and Twitter.

They were all told to pay the victim £624 each.

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Court warnings will 'help stop people breaking law'

The Attorney General said he was publishing legal guidance notes previously only issued to the media to "help stop people from inadvertently breaking the law."

Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Dominic Grieve QC 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."