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Thomas Kelly's death: a trial by social media



20 July 2012

Thomas Kelly

Associate Professor David Rolph discusses whether the posting of pictures of Thomas Kelly's alleged killer on social media could pose serious risks to criminal cases and the right to a fair trial.

In an article inthe Sydney Morning Herald, Associate Professor Rolph asserts that once a matter is before court it becomes "sub judice", which alters the way it can be reported.

"Calling someone a murderer before they've actually been found guilty by a jury is deeply problematic.

"Journalists for institutional media are very well aware of their obligations and they're usually the sorts of people who will get prosecuted for contempt of court if they do something wrong.

"But now that people can publish through all forms of social media, the same legal principles still apply but people are not aware.

"It's a somewhat untested space as to whether someone tweeting something is going to cause a substantial risk of serious interference to someone's right to a fair trial."

Dr Rolph says the individual tweeter was the most obvious person who could be held liable, but the more complicated issue was whether Twitter and Facebook could be considered publishers.

"That's a really difficult issue that's before the courts at the moment, not only in Australia but in other countries around the world.

"Different courts throughout the world are taking slightly different views about these sorts of things."

View the entire article - Thomas Kelly's death: a trial by social media - Sydney Morning Herald

Contact: Greg Sherington

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