Saturday 3 December 2016

Social media's serious threat to the possibility of a fair trial

Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30

The Four Courts: Under Irish law, a person is innocent until proven guilty
The Four Courts: Under Irish law, a person is innocent until proven guilty

Social media poses perhaps the biggest risk to our legal system in 2016, and judges' instructions are futile in tackling the issue. Particularly in high-profile cases, where vast amounts of conventional media coverage and social media comment have tumbled around the Twittersphere for months before a trial, the defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial is surely compromised.

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Social media by its very nature is an under-regulated cauldron of opinion, often inflammatory opinion, where users can espouse views that are unconscionable, unwarranted, or just downright false and defamatory about an individual, without repercussion.

Whether a person has been charged or not, by Irish law they are innocent until their guilt is proven in court. That should be a most basic right for every citizen.

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