One Gazette reporter was ticked off for charging a smartphone in court.
The High Court challenge mounted by solicitors to the government’s legal aid reforms has already established one big precedent: Twitter is now a force to be reckoned with in court.
During the two-day hearing, James Eadie QC, counsel for the defendant, admitted amending his choice of vocabulary because of the ubiquitous social medium. He told Court Number 1, packed with supporters of the claimants, that he had intended to refer to some of the protagonists as ‘tame poodles’ but decided not to due to the presence of the legal twitterati.
At the opening, Jason Coppel QC, for the claimants, made an application that parties be permitted to tweet from the public gallery – the privilege is normally granted for the press bench only.
Mr Justice Burnett acceded, but said he would not be reading the output. However the judge expressed a degree of agitation at the claimants’ ‘unattractive’ allegations about the lord chancellor, in part because they were disseminated immediately via social media.
For all this, the learned judge’s clerk seemed to be struggling with the new world. In accordance with guidance issued by the lord chief justice allowing members of the press to ‘use text-based devices to communicate from court’ without first seeking judicial permission, the Gazette’s Catherine Baksi had been busy with her ‘text-based device’ all morning.
Inevitably, with all the cut and thrust of advocacy, her battery began to flag. There are no power sockets at the press benches, so Baksi plugged her charger in at a convenient wall socket, only to be ticked off by the clerk. Fortunately, no summons for abstracting HMCTS’s electricity has yet been received.
Confusion over Twitter was not the only perplexing issue in the hearing. The claimants’ skeleton argument had on its front page a note to help readers navigate their trial bundles. ‘References to the Trial Bundle are in the form TB/[x]/[y]/p z, where [x] is the volume number, y is the tab number and z is the page number.’
Obiter, who boasts an O-level in maths, trusts that is all clear.