SOCIAL media could be stopping people getting a fair trial, the Government warned today.
Ministers announced a new investigation into how Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are undermining justice.
They are worried that web users are chatting about criminal cases – which could influence juries if they come across the comments online.
The Government has asked judges, lawyers and the public to submit evidence about their experiences of social media and the justice system.
The probe comes after a murder trial had to be called off completely due to online commenters.
The trial of two schoolgirls who murdered a vulnerable woman was stopped by a judge who declared that it was unfair.
So many members of the public were commenting on the case that the judge decided jurors couldn’t make an unbiased decision.
A new trial later took place with tough restrictions on how the media could report it.
In other cases, web users have exposed the identity of alleged rape victims even though it’s against the law.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright said today: “Every defendant in this country is entitled to a fair trial where a verdict is delivered based on the evidence heard in court.
“Our contempt of court laws are designed to prevent trial by media, however, are they able to protect against trials by social media?
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“I am looking for expert evidence on whether the increasing influence and ubiquity of social media is having an impact on criminal trials and if so, whether the criminal justice system has the tools it needs to manage that risk.”
Four years ago, the Government was forced to issue a warning to the public that it is illegal to publish their opinion about trials before they are over.