It’s not a strange thing to broadcast details of your life on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In fact, it’s normal behaviour — for a normal individual, that is.
The moment you get involved in a criminal case, stricter conduct is expected of you, especially in the digital space. If you happen to be a defendant, good solicitors in London would advise you to stay away from social media completely.
Why is there a need for prudent posting? Because there have been several cases where social media content is used as evidence, leading to convictions. A post on Facebook, according to the BBC, might single-handedly land you in jail if it ruins a criminal trial.
Social Media Posts as Evidence
Your posts on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms are admissible in British courts. They can either be used as direct or circumstantial evidence.
Take, for instance, the case of Peter Nunn. In 2014, he bombarded Stella Creasy, then a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), with abusive tweets. He was jailed for 18 weeks. In 2011, Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan were sentenced to four years in prison after posting Facebook messages that encourage people to wreak havoc in their town. In 2015, Alan Wilson sent his ex-partner 143 messages on WhatsApp, which were used as evidence against him.
Because courts are willing to admit social media content as evidence, refrain from posting anything. You want to defend yourself — it’s understandable — but your defensive status update might just incriminate you.
No Messages Allowed
Never assume that everything you share online is fully confidential. And always keep in mind that everything you say can be used for or against you in court.
Defendants aren’t the only ones who should be governed by cautious social media use. If you’re a juror, avoid researching the digital life of the people involved in the case. There’s a reason some courts don’t honour certain social media content as evidence.
If you happen to know people who are involved in the case, exercise caution as well. Don’t ask a friend who’s a jury on the case; they’re not allowed to tell you anything anyway.
Prudent Use of Social Media
There are a lot of don’ts, apart from communicating with the parties involved. Don’t post status updates declaring that the defendant is definitely guilty. In fact, it’s wise to refrain from commenting on the character of the defendants, victims, or witnesses.
No name dropping. Naming children who are on trial or victims in sexual offence cases is against the law. If the defendant isn’t named in a court report, there’s a legal reason. And there’s a corresponding legal sanction when it’s defied.
It isn’t advisable to delete your social media content because a negative inference could be made regarding your actions. Your lawyer may permit you to change the privacy settings, but he or she may not allow you to do anything that may seem suspicious.
As the trial progresses, always ask yourself whether your actions on social media could affect the case. It may be second nature to broadcast everything online, but when you’re involved in a criminal case, it’s best to put your phone down, and let everything take its due course.