Speaking to the Criminal Bar Association last week, Attorney General Dominic Grieve MP said that protecting the fairness of trials was becoming increasingly more difficult with rise in online media and blogging. He went on to say that website owners should be responsible for posts and comments and he hopes to have ‘further discussions’ owners’ liability.
It is common for parties involved in publishing material relating to a current or upcoming trial to escape from the issue of liability under the argument that they innocently passed on materials. Distributors of said material can claim that they were unaware of that the material was information in a trial. Site owners could claim the same thing for comments made on their website on until they are made aware of a connection to a trial.
Though the proliferation of online publishing and distribution will continue to be an issue, Dominic Grieve went on to say the following in his comments:
"Does the system presently work? In blunt terms and with doubtless imperfections, in my view, it does. Although my office receives a substantial number of queries from legal representatives, the courts, the judiciary, members of the public and also members of the press there have been a comparatively small number of prosecutions under either the 1981 [Contempt of Court] Act or for breaches of other specific restrictions."
Issues of censorship, privacy, and multi-channel information distribution will no doubt shape this debate as it continues to become a bigger issue. For now we will wait and see.