The British Legal System needs to adapt
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, says British legal system needs to adapt
The HM Courts & Tribunals Service says it is sorry for publishing the names of defendants online because the publication identified the victims of sexual crime.
Victims of sexual crimes have lifelong anonymity under UK law.
But the courts service admitted it had “mistakenly” published the names of two mothers convicted of sexually abusing their children.
This led to the children being identified.
It says it has taken action to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
The statement comes after Peaches Geldof apologised for tweeting the names of the two mothers whose babies were abused by the Lostprophets front man Ian Watkins.
An HM Courts & Tribunals Service spokesperson told Newsbeat: “We apologise that the names of the defendants in this case were mistakenly included on our court listing site.
“The names were quickly removed from the site, and action has been taken to ensure this does not happen again.”
They wouldn’t confirm how often this has happened in the past, or be specific about how they plan to prevent it happening in the future.
Public advice notices
The government’s top lawyer, the Attorney General, has announced his office will be making public advice notices on high profile cases usually only distributed to the media.
Dominic Grieve has told Newsbeat the publication of the notices is to help “educate” people on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook know what they can and can’t say around legal proceedings of a case.
He said: “If there are only two people looking at your Twitter feed, it’s very unlikely that a fair trial is going to be undermined. But the danger as you know is that Twitter feeds can go viral and can be read by hundreds of thousands or in fact millions of people.
“That’s one of the reasons why people need to understand the risk they’re potentially taking when they effectively broadcast to the world.”
He added that the education wasn’t just targeted at the general public.
“I do accept that we all need to look, including the court service, including my own office, at how we go about the process of firstly providing people with information about cases.
“But secondly alerting people to the fact that there may be anonymity orders in place in respect to particular cases or particular witnesses.
He also said he would like to see schools teaching students about how to be responsible when they are using Twitter and Facebook.
Last month, a man was given a 14-month suspended prison sentence after tweeting an image he claimed was James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables.
You can follow the Attorney General’s advice on his office’s twitter feed @AGO_UK