Friday 14 December 2018

Proposed Contempt of Court law to go to next stage in Dáil

Stock image (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Stock image (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A proposed law to give judges specific powers to direct social media companies to remove posts that risk prejudicing criminal trials has been allowed progress to the next stage in the Dáil.

The Bill, which could see companies like Facebook and Twitter face hefty fines if they fail to comply with such orders - was introduced by Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan today.

The Dáil agreed that it will move to the next stage of the legislative process which will involve a debate during Private Members time in the coming months.

Ms Madigan presented the Contempt of Court Bill 2017 in Leinster House this afternoon.

She said that contempt of court procedures are the means by which the justice system ensures the smooth running and operating of the court, that these powers prevent injustices being done and guarantee the right to a fair trial.

Ms Madigan added that the courts need "new powers to deal with new problems" and that this is the first attempt to legislate for contempt, which has previously been covered by common law.

“The aim of this legislation is to clarify the law surrounding contempt of court.

"It gives our courts system the powers it needs to adapt to changes in society and technology and to tackle a number of problems which arise in the justice system," she said.

Ms Madigan said that the proposed legislation would ensure the Irish courts are "some of the most modern in the world and are well equipped to deal with any problems which the future may throw at them."

Under the Bill social media companies could face the prospect of an "unlimited fine" with the sum imposed to be decided upon by the judge.

Among defences allowed for in the Bill is if the website's operators can show they went "beyond what is reasonable necessary" to prevent the publication of material prejudicial to a court case.

It would not be an offence to unwittingly prejudice a trial by posting a comment on a social media company while believing a trial was not ongoing.

Online Editors

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