R v the Internet

December 3rd, 2009 at 11:32 am by David Farrar

The seminar on the Internet and the Courts has been really good so far. You can follow it on Twitter here. It is also being filmed and will be viewable on the Internet.

Chris Finlayson gave a very amusing and interesting opening address. Referred to how someone once threw a cat at a Judge and the Judge said if you do it again, it will be contempt. It is indexed in law journals as “cat throwing-contempt-one cat allowed-two cats is contempt”.

He also said how relieved he was to find the room full of relatively normal people (ie lawyers) rather than Farrar-like hobbits :-)

Professor Tony Smith had what I considered a good suggestion that the Courts have a staffer who proactively looks for material before a trial starts that may be pose a risk to a fair trial, and asks voluntarily for temporary removal.

Solictor-General David Collins talked about how Internet issues take up a large amount of his time, and the inability of getting Yahoo to remove material. Is seeking an agreement between governments to seek to enforce each other’s court orders to ISPs. There are some risks with this approach, as if publishers are deemed to be subject to the laws of every country they have readers, the lowest common denominator can apply.

Steven Price said that compulsory filtering only happens in repressive countries like China and Australia. Heh. Said genie was out of the bottle but not sure if it is a problem. Thinks there should be less use of contempt.

Robert Lithgow QC said he was probably only person in room who has prosecuted for contempt, defended people for contempt, has been charged with contempt himself and in fact appears shortly in the Supreme Court for Vince Seimer over his contempt issues.

He agreed with Steven Price largely and said the law of contempt is fundamentally buggered and only getting at the nutters now. He also said that there is no constitutional significance to modern commercial media as we don’t need them now, as bloggers are the public! Said the press are watchdogs and mongrels. They bark indiscriminately and only interested in food and biting!

Radio NZ Political Editor (and Chair of EPMU Media Committee) Brent Edwards said Internet got around censorship in even most sinister regime, so will do so in countries like NZ.

Robert Lithgow suggested all court cases should have a static camera so people can view over Internet, and not rely on the media so much. I agree entirely.

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