Yesterday, along with my colleague and Shadow Attorney General, Karl Turner MP, I circulated this advice and guidance on avoiding risk of contempt of court, to fellow MPs and members of the House of Lords.
I would ask anyone who uses social media and publishes blogs to please read it carefully and bear it in mind. Thank you.
“It is clear to everyone that proceedings are now active, given the charges and court appearance on Saturday. We thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance to colleagues on the issue of contempt of court as none of us would wish the proceedings to be inadvertently affected.
Colleagues should please refrain from publicly discussing or passing comment on the facts of this case until the conclusion of the trial. Colleagues should particularly refrain from any form of vilification of the defendant prior to the conclusion of the trial.
It is important that nothing is said or done which could prejudice the defendant from having a fair trial and that ultimately, justice is done.
Colleagues should keep in mind that ‘publication’ includes speeches, writings or other communication in whatever form, including social media activity, which is addressed to the public at large or any section of the public. [Section 2. Contempt of Court Act 2981].
Please be aware that the risk of culpability if any publication is deemed by the court to reveal matters which might be inadmissible in evidence and which may influence jurors or by commenting on the merits of the case or prejudicing it, vilification of the suspect under arrest, or publicly disclosing sensitive material that is subject to a court order restricting such disclosure.
Our advice is that there should be no further substantive comment on the case, except for the wish that it is thoroughly investigated so that justice can take its course. Colleagues may wish to share this advice with their local Constituency Labour Parties, trade unions and solidarity groups and we would welcome that.”
Karl Turner MP, Shadow Attorney General
Jo Stevens MP, Shadow Solicitor General