Thursday 14 December 2017

Contempt photographer sobs in dock

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice

A member of the public caught taking photographs with his mobile phone as judges delivered their ruling in the Julian Assange case found himself in custody for two hours before having to appear in court himself.

Rudolphe Charlot, 23, a musician from near Paris, who lives in south London and works in an organic food shop, sobbed as he stood in the London courtroom facing the possibility of a prison sentence for contempt of court.

Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen's Bench Division, who had earlier dismissed Assange's latest bid against extradition at the High Court, told Charlot his punishment was to spend half a day in custody - but because of the time he had already been deprived of his liberty he was "free to go".

But the judge warned that in future others who took photographs in court would face stiffer penalties.

Sir John said that "for the future, people must understand that if photographs are taken in court the sentence will not be measured in half days or hours, but in a substantially longer period of time".

Referring to tweeting from court, he said: "It is absolutely essential that people understand that the change that has been made by the Lord Chief Justice in allowing mobile phones to be used to transmit messages from court is not abused in any way at all."

In other cases there could be a real danger to the administration of justice if photographs were taken, particularly those involving witnesses and jurors.

"Therefore people must realise this is not an old-fashioned prohibition. It is essential for the administration of justice."

He told Charlot: "You have apologised. Do not ever do it again."

Earlier, a barrister asked to represent Charlot at the hearing said he was "extremely distressed by what has occurred in terms of recognising that he should not have done what he did".

Press Association

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