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UK's Supreme Court greenlights Twitter usage

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Text-based communications such as tweeting on micro-blogging service Twitter will be allowed in Blighty's Supreme Court for some cases.

“The rapid development of communications technology brings with it both opportunities and challenges for the justice system," said Supreme Court President Lord Phillips.

"An undoubted benefit is that regular updates can be shared with many people outside the court, in real time, which can enhance public interest in the progress of a case and keep those who are interested better informed.

“We are fortunate that, by the time a case reaches the Supreme Court there is very seldom any reason for any degree of confidentiality, so that questions about what should and should not be shared with those outside the courtroom do not usually arise."

The end result is that users of Twitter and similar forms of Web2.0 communication can now while away their time in the UK's highest appeal court head-deep in their smartphones, providing updates to the world outside the four walls of the courtroom in most instances.

There are exceptions, however. The Supreme Court said that text-based comms were forbidden in cases where formal reporting restrictions apply. It also disallows tweeting during family cases relating to the welfare of a child, and cases where publication of proceedings might prejudice a pending jury trial.

"Those attending such cases will be informed by notices placed at the doors of the courtroom that restrictions are in place," it said.

The guidance, which is limited to the Supreme Court, was welcomed by human rights' supporters, with the UK Human Rights Blog proclaiming the decision a "sensible" move.

In December the Lord Chief Justice released interim rules that said tweeting in court would be given the go-ahead on a case-by-case basis. ®

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