Top judge reveals Twitter fears

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The country's top judge has warned that misuse of the internet during trials could threaten the future of the jury system.

Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, fears that court-based tweeting increases the risk of a mistrial. He said it was too easy for campaigners to bombard the micro-blogging site with messages in a bid to influence jurors.

The most senior judge in England and Wales is also seeking tougher warnings for jurors over internet use.

"We cannot stop people tweeting, but if jurors look at such material, the risks to the fairness of the trial will be very serious, and ultimately the openness of the trial process on which we all rely would be damaged," he said.

"We have to remember that tweets stay on the internet and to allow court-based tweeting is likely to increase the potential for prejudicial material regarding a defendant or a witness to become available on the internet."

He added: "We welcome advances in technology, provided that we are its masters and it is our tool and servant."

Lord Judge questioned whether the text-based transmission of material from a courtroom should be banned, saying he could find no statutory prohibition on its use, but tape recordings were banned under the Contempt of Court Act.

"Why is Twitter in the form of text-based transmission of material from court any different?" he asked.

"This question has yet to be decided, and the decision may have a considerable impact on our processes.

"I have to be blunt about this, but in my view if the jury system is to survive as the system for a fair trial in which we all believe and support, the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop," he said.

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