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Twitter no longer banned in court, says top UK judge

Reporters can use Twitter to give live text updates from courtrooms, the Lord Chief Justice ruled, clarifying rules after hearings involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Screenshot Twitter (Photo:www.twitter.com)

Reporters are allowed to tweet from UK courtrooms

Reporters covering court cases should be allowed to send text messages to the micro-blogging site Twitter from the courtroom, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales ruled on Monday.

Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge said that the use of "unobtrusive, hand held, virtually silent" equipment to give live text updates is unlikely to interfere with the administration of justice.

Cameras and recording equipment are barred in British courts, but Twitter has been a gray area.

"There is no statutory prohibition on the use of live text-based communications in open court," the Lord Chief Justice wrote in an interim practice guidance posted to the English judiciary website.

"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."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds up a court document for the media after he was released on bail, outside the High Court, London, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/ AP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was released on bail last week

At a bail hearing for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last week journalists were allowed to tweet from inside one courtroom. However, a different judge banned the practice after an appeal to a higher court two days later.

Priority given to journalists

Clarifying the confusion England's and Wales' most senior judicial official, Igor Judge, said priority would be given to journalists, but in general the use of Twitter would be allowed in British courtrooms provided it didn't interfere with court proceedings.

Reporting from British courts is tightly controlled, with television coverage and photography prohibited and sound recording allowed only in exceptional circumstances.

Assange was freed last week on 200,000 pounds (236,000 euros) bail after three high-profile court appearances.

The judiciary's final rules will be issued after a consultation process, sometime in the forthcoming months.

Author: Nina Haase (AP/ Reuters)
Editor: Cyrus Farivar

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