An Italian journalist attending the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange almost found himself in the cells of the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday a after taking a picture of the proceedings on his mobile phone.
Instead, officials confiscated freelance writer Alessandro Carlini’s HTC Desire phone, which has a touchscreen and 5MP camera, for the day.
One of the country’s senior judges also took the opportunity to warn all media representatives and members of the public attending the High Court hearing in London that they could “tweet – but not snap”.
Lord Justice Thomas was sitting with Justice Ouseley to hear Assange’s challenge against a district judge’s ruling that he should be extradited to Sweden to face investigation over allegations that he sexually assaulted two women.
The case has attracted international attention and oak panelled Court 4 at the Royal Courts has been packed for the two-day hearing.
Yesterday, the second and last day of the hearing, the court Tipstaff was called in after 34-year-old Carlini, who was sitting two rows behind Assange, was seen taking a picture.
Carlini, who works for Italian newspapers and magazines, apologised in court and said later he had mistakenly pressed “the wrong button” on his mobile touchscreen.
Lord Justice Thomas ordered him to stand up in the crowded court after the midday break and warned him that he was committing a contempt of court.
The judge said press and media were now allowed to use mobile phones and other types of technology to keep the public informed of court proceedings, but “it has always been made very clear photographs are not to be taken”.
To do so amounted to contempt of court, said the judge.
Normally a person caught taking pictures would be taken down to the cells until legal representation could be provided and the matter dealt with.
The judge said he understood that Carlini might not have been entirely to blame, but added that the case should serve as a warning to everyone that in future such conduct would lead to contempt proceedings.
Carlini apologised in court, saying: “I am very sorry if I caused a problem.”
Outside court, he added: “I pushed the wrong button. I did not do it on purpose. It was a stupid error.”
Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 makes it an offence to film or take photographs inside courts.