CONTEMPT OF COURT
Under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, criminal proceedings become active when:
► an arrest warrant is issued
► a summons is issued
► an individual is arrested
► an individual is charged
When criminal proceedings are active, you have a responsibility to adhere to the 'innocent until proven guilty' rule of British law.
If you publish material online which could prejudice an imminent or ongoing jury trial, you could be prosecuted for contempt of court and sentenced to a maximum of two years' jail and/or an unlimited fine.
Prejudicial material includes, but is not limited to:
► information about a suspect or defendant's previous convictions
► statements about a suspect or defendant's character
► suggestions a suspect or defendant is guilty
Journalists are entitled to report on criminal proceedings – but they must comply with strict reporting rules outlined in the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Professional journalists are trained in contempt of court legislation. Most users of Facebook and Twitter, for example, are not.
Criminal proceedings are no longer active when:
► an individual is acquitted
► an individual is sentenced
► the proceedings come to an end in some other way
IN SHORT: When criminal proceedings are active, keep your comments to yourself.