Times in Twitter reporting 'first' from Assange hearing

Times legal editor Frances Gibb said that special correspondent Alexi Mostrous reporting on the Julian Assange bail hearing with live Twitter messages was a first for the paper.

Writing in The Times online Gibb said it ‘is not only a first – it comes just weeks after the Lord Chief Justice expressed concern about people tweeting potentially prejudicial material from court”.

She noted: ‘Lord Judge, Lord Chief Justice, warned in November that tweets stayed on the internet where they might be retrieved by jurors. The jurors could then pick up either prohibited material or one side of a case – they might, for instance, learn of a defendant’s previous convictions when these have been ruled inadmissible.”

But she said that he stopped short of a ban saying: ‘We cannot stop people tweeting, but if jurors look at such material, the risks to the fairness of the trial will be serious.”

Under UK law recording devices are banned from court hearings.

At the start of the hearing Mostrous wrote on Twitter: ‘new internet age? Security guard: ‘phones off, unless you take notes with blackberry [paraphrased] in which case away you go.'”

In addition to his Twitter messages he contributed to a longer live-blog on www.thetimes.co.uk.

Wikileaks founder Assange was granted bail at City of London Magistrates Court as he fights extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges. But he continued to be held in custody after prosecutors appealed the ruling.

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