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Editor calls for ‘consistency’ over use of Twitter

A senior regional press editor has called on judges to display greater consistency in rulings over whether journalists can use Twitter in court.

The Northern Echo has been granted permission to tweet live updates from a current trial taking place at Teesside Crown Court in which village postmaster Robin Garbutt denies a charge of murdering his wife Diane.

Trial judge Mr Justice Openshaw agreed to allow the Echo’s chief reporter Joe Willis to use the microblogging tool to report the trial which is expected to last up to four weeks.

The move comes after North-East rivals ncjmedia, publishers of Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle, were recently denied the opportunity to tweet updates from the trial of two men accused of helping killer Raoul Moat during his murderous rampage last year.

Northern Echo editor Peter Barron told HTFP: “We had no problem getting permisssion to do it but that underlines the need for greater consistency in this area.

“For a court in such a high-profile case is going to say yes to tweeting live from court, hopefully we’ll see other courts following in line.”

In the postmaster case, Joe personally submitted the application to the judge to tweet the live updates.

He said: “I saw Sky News do it for the sentencing of the so-called Crossbow Cannibal and wondered if it would be allowed for an entire trial.

“Having previously been told off by a clerk for texting the newsdesk during a previous trial, i was a little self-conscious at first.

“I think it’s important to restrict tweeting until quiet moments in court and remember the priority is to take accurate shorthand notes.”

In another recent case, the Worcester News was also given permission to provide live updates via Twitter from a murder trial.

Lord Chief Justice Judge cleared the way in December for Twitter to be used for court reporting, providing that presiding judges gave permission and it would not interfere with justice.

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  • March 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Peter Barron clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. Lord Judge said it is down to the judge in each case to decide whether or not the use of Twitter is appropriate. There is no blanket rule – therefore there are always going to be some cases where such activity is allowed, and others where it is not. Bear in mind that judges have access to much more info about cases than is put into the public demain – there may be good reasons why such applications are rejected.

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