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The Impact of Social Media on Fair Trial Laws in Britain: A Comprehensive Analysis

The law in England and Wales forbids people from giving their opinions about ongoing or upcoming criminal trials, but this principle is under assault on social media.

The law surrounding reporting on criminal trials hasn’t changed for forty years, but the internet and social media have changed the recognition landscape.

In June 2022, the Law Commission of England and Wales was asked by the government to review the law on contempt of court and “consider reform to improve its effectiveness, consistency, and coherence.”

The current legislation restricting what can and cannot be said about criminal proceedings is the Contempt of Court Act, which dates from 1981.

But the Law Commission said, “There are also growing concerns about the impact of social media and technological advancements on the administration of justice.”

Liz Hull, the Daily Mail’s northern correspondent and co-host of “The Trial of Lucy Letby” podcast, said, “In general, the Contempt of Court Act works perfectly in protecting trials from being derailed by accredited journalists and publications who understand the law, but judges are increasingly encountering issues with ‘commentators’ on social media.”

Such was the case in November last year when an Old Bailey jury was deliberating on verdicts in the trial of five men accused of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Koray Alpergin in north London. Several anonymous Twitter accounts had commented on live tweets from the trial and had included prejudicial information, including allegations about one of those in the dock, who had given evidence and testified against one of his co-defendants.

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