back to article Trial and error: online comments court attention

The UK Attorney General has said that operators of websites should be responsible for comments made by visitors to their sites that prejudice trials. Dominic Grieve said that he wants "further discussions" on site owners' liability. Speaking to the Criminal Bar Association, Grieve, a Conservative MP, said that protecting the …

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Anonymous Coward

More monkeys given too much control

"Grieve's comments suggest he may contemplate increasing a site publisher's responsibilities for material posted by other users."

What a tosser.

A jury should have no access to news, tv, web, etc.... whilst the case is ongoing.

People have every right my make comment, wether good or bad. Prosecuting the site owners is just the easy way out. Hardly surprising though, bloody English, can't do anything right.

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WTF?

You're having a larf ...

So every juror should give up their right to watch TV, surf the web, read newspapers while the trial they are involved in is ongoing?

Maybe jurors would agree if compensated enough for that, but why should they otherwise?

Also they shouldn't need to; there should be no material that is subjudical being published. And that's undoubtedly why this issue is about what people do publish and who is responsible for such things.

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Big Brother

Here in Canada, news organization owners are afraid to let people comment on court cases

You're thinking of the US TV version of jury.

In real life juries are seldom sequestered until they begin deliberations, at the end of the trial.

But I do agree with the public's right to make comments.

Here in Canada, news organization owners are afraid to let people comment on court cases, they totally block comments.

That prevents citizens performing their civic duty of ensuring that our legislators pass fair laws and that our courts enforce those laws properly. It is citizens, voters, who would correct problems, but we can't if we can't discuss those problems.

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Circular conundrum

So to enforce a total gagging order which also includes a clause forbidding mention that the gagging order even exists (of the kind which has been rumoured to have been granted recently to certain high-profile persons) the gagging order itself must be publicised?

Does not compute!

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Stop

Criminal not civil

This is about the criminal law - where someone's liberty and protection of society is at stake - not celebs trying to keep the covers over their bed-hopping antics.

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Anonymous Coward

Twat

Can someone explain to him that the spazz is international and some forums have no owner (usenet and IRC spring to mind).

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Indeed.

I'd love to see then go after, for example, a Russian site owner whose site hosted a comment by a Georgian about a UK trial.

I'm also not sure how someone who visited the UK and witnessed a crime, without being a key witness, is supposed to know or care about something like this.

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WTF?

Fixing the wrong problem

Prejudicial comments could be found anywhere, such as a conversation overheard in the street or the pub. Surely it would be easier to give each juror a "minder" to keep them away from such sources than try to block ALL the sources?

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Anonymous Coward

Sounds like...

... backhanded threats to cleanse the net because it might prejudice juries. In much the same vein that sweeping child porn (and ghod knows what else) under the rug with blocklists is somehow tough on making said child porn. It's blaming the messenger is what it is, whether that messenger is "the internet" or "news websites with commentard facilities" or whatever else.

Look, if you don't want juries "prejudiced" then don't let them /on the internet/ during trial but employ a small army of censors to provide sanitised newspaper clippings. How fair it is to influence jurors that way is another matter entirely. Wasn't it up to them to make up their own minds? Or should we cut them off from all communication entirely?

If the counter argument for that is that juries cannot be trusted to make up their own minds without help ("saving" them from material they cannot be expected to identify as prejudiced themselves) then that pretty much kicks the bottom out of the argument to have juries in the first place. Or worse, paints the institution as a sham.

I don't know what the logic here is supposed to be but I can see it's skewed seven ways from sunday.

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Megaphone

So many laws, so little enforcement

LEGISLATION THAT IS NOT ENFORCED FAIRLY AND COMPLETELY IS CORRUPT LEGISLATION.

Picking and choosing who to prosecute for speeding offences, talking on a mobile while driving, dangerous driving - is ridiculous when almost all drivers do it (in London, at least).

Prosecuting one out of a thousand website owners for comments made on his website would be prejudicial considering it is constantly happening elsewhere.

Perhaps there needs to be a fitness test as regards responsibility. Let's face it, probably no one gives two pennies for what I think here. Why? Because I'm an individual posting a comment along with fifty other people. Opinions are worthless. But an editor! A professional journalist for a widely distributed print magazine or paper - they have real power and responsibility. People take what they write seriously.

It is write that editors and journalists that are taken seriously should choose their words carefully. But the average joe letting off steam online? Honestly nobody cares what they write anyway.

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FAIL

Lol...

this will be like putting toothpaste back into the tube, they really have no idea!

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Grenade

Or in other words..

What's the point of us all earning huge sums of money getting "super injunctions"* for our clients when all the names and juicy dirt are all over teh intahtoobz within five minutes?

This has got to stop or rich bastards won't pay us to hush up their improprieties any more.

*You know, the ones where you're not only not allowed to publish the dirt, you're also not allowed to mention that you're not allowed to publish the dirt and you're not allowed to mention that there's anything in place that's not allowing you to mention that you're not allowed to publish the dirt. Or something like that.

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Grenade

Fuck the internet - what about the newspapers

Anyone who can remember the Colin Stagg case will know the worst culprits of poisoning a jury pool are the tabloids and their love of innuendo, slur and salacious details when reporting on juicy cases.

Maybe people prefer the online version as it's *less* tainted ?

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Thumb Down

Forgetting the first W in WWW

There was a trial in Toronto for a sex murderer a few years back. There was a gag order but since it was big news it was covered in the US. The Toronto news outlets could not cover it, but you could pick up a copy of the New York Times at the news stand, view any number of US news sites on the web, turn on the TV or Radio since US stations reach Toronto.

The gag order was a joke, but Toronto news services did not think it was funny as they were loosing money as people went to US sources for their news.

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Flame

@Tom 35 - Nail meet head

this has nothing to do with justice, juries or law, and everything to do with the fact that people are not reading newspapers anymore. Of course rather than address the REAL reason people aren't reading newspapers (mainly crap reporting, and an obsession with yoof celebrity meejaa) it's far simpler to blame the internet.

Reminds me of the situation in the 80s, where there was a drastic shortage of people studying nursing, mainly because of the abysmal pay. It got so bad the (then) Tory government came up with a plan to tackle it.

Higher wages ?

No.

A massive ad campaign to encourage people to become nurses.

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FAIL

Caution: Dumb politicians talking

If this idiot thinks that the likes of Twitter or Facebook are going to scroll through the inanities of thousands of comments to satisfy a UK law, or any other web sites that are not domiciled in the UK. he is dreaming.

The US presents the biggest challenge because of it's Constitution and the small matter of freedom of speech.

Already court orders suppressing evidence in preliminary hearings are ignored by overseas journalists, and likely he will be to.

If a court is too cheap to sequester a jury in a hotel, he will have to take the risks. Besides, now that people are so connected, the challenge he faces are even more daunting!

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Re: Sequestered in a Hotel

Here in the US most hotels have free internet, including screens that pop up on the tv. Not sure that will help much if you don't trust the jury to follow their directions. Haven't been to any UK hotels, but I imagine they are similar.

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Flame

Of course part of the problem

is the UKs rather lacksidasical approach to justice. It's not unusual for a criminal case to take TWO YEARS to reach court, by which time god only knows what has been released into the wild.

Remember: Justice delayed is justice denied.

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FAIL

Delay for a trial

Also, not only can it take 2 year for a trial to be held, you can be imprisoned while the government delays charging you or does not even bother to actually schedule the trial (even if there will be that 2 year wait to hold the trial). It is much easier to skip the trial and go direct to the enforcement of the sentence.

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If the legal system was honest, just, fair, affordable and actually worked....

...I might give a damn.

But it isn't and doesn't, so I don't.

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Megaphone

The problem is the legal system not the internet

Unless courts are using cheap bottom of the barrel jurors, jurors will know that social comments on websites have little credibility beyond being one person's opinion.

So, if there is a problem, it is a problem because jurors are paid too little, and barristers are selecting jurors who are too gullible and pliant.

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Big Brother

This is all about control

Legal system insiders want to subvert the jury system, whose foundation is that non-legal people are adding common knowledge and common sense to the testimony and judges instructions in a legal case.

If the legal system was intended to be a determined by lawyers and evidence only, there would be no need for jurors, and there would be no restriction prohibiting justice system insiders from serving as jurors.

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I personally find the exercise of the US practice of keeping a jury impartial to be a farce.

An impartial jury is one which distinguishes facts from opinions and bases its decisions of facts. This requires intelligent people, and intelligent people on the whole seem to prefer to keep themselves well informed. As the process for keeping a jury impartial tends to remove precisely those people who tend to keep themselves well informed because they "might have formed prior opinions" this seems to prevent the selection of intelligent juries that can make rational decisions about law. I'd call that the bigger subversion of justice.

The situation might be different in the UK, but given the language used by the attorney and the postings I'm seeing on this board today, I doubt it.

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Coffee/keyboard

Innocent until prove guilty

The system is broken.

Allegedly the media are allowed to report anything they like. It has been rumoured they can get away with anything, as long as it might be true. They don't really care as long as someone is reading or listening.

The public are just as much as fault - they want to lynch somebody. The instant any incident occurs, the public want the perpetrator caught and hanged immediately. So the media feeds their hunger, spinning the situation, publishing what might be true (with suitable allegedlies, and rumours), and the authorities are made to look bad for appearing not to act.

The law needs changed to restrict what information can be reported in any trial, ALLEGED or not. It needs to become and offence to make public any information which might prejudice the trial. Essentially, any information not released by the Police or the Court system.

An innocent person suddenly becomes a victim if the media have ruined their life through irresponsible reporting.

As for the origins of the article - any website that allows uncontrolled public comment on ongoing criminal actions is asking for trouble. Fine, we can't stop the world, but we can educate our people on what is fair and just.

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