INCREASING ACCESS, TRANSPARENCY AND UNDERSTANDING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA, COURT FILMING AND JUDGMENT SUMMARIES
Over the past 2 years, the NSW Supreme Court has taken significant steps to better serve the general public, the media and the legal profession by opening up new channels of communication and taking new initiatives to better explain court judgments.
The NSW Chief Justice, The Hon Tom Bathurst AC said, “When I was appointed to the role of Chief Justice 4 years ago, I announced my commitment to improving accessibility to the court, and in that time the Court has adopted new technology and new communication methods to help reach that goal.”
While some court jurisdictions in Australia and abroad are still reticent about social media, the NSW Supreme Court has had a relatively positive experience embracing Twitter and Facebook.
“One reason why our social media experience has been so positive is because of our initiative to create judgment summaries which can be tweeted out to the public. It’s all very well embracing social media, but unless you have something useful and meaningful to share, the opportunity can be lost,” said Chief Justice Bathurst.
“The court’s judgment summaries essentially condense a full judgment into a 1-2 page document that is easy to read and understand, and from all accounts are very much appreciated and valued by the media and the community at large.”
The Chief Justice stated that judgment summaries will not replace the court’s full judgment, but are proving to be a valuable tool to help increase the public’s understanding of a Judge’s reasoning in any particular matter. Since February 2014, the court has uploaded 495 judgment summaries to the court’s website.
The court’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have also been well received by the public, amassing 3813 and 1286 followers respectively and are growing steadily every day.
“Interestingly, our most popular Facebook post was regarding recent court orders made in relation to Channel Ten’s The Bachelorette which attracted around 40,000 views. Thanks to the drama of reality television, the court received a huge spike in followers on that particular day,” said Chief Justice Bathurst.
It has also been 1 year since the Courts Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Judgments) Act 2014 came into force, formalising the court’s filming policy and creating a presumption in favour of filming final court proceedings. In that time, the NSW Supreme Court has received 27 applications from the media to film court judgments, and granted 19 of those to take place.
The final judgment and sentences in the following matters are just a few that have been filmed and broadcast on television news programs:
- R v Cory Breen
- R v Shaun McNeil
- R v Christopher Cullen
- R v Daniel Kelsall
- R v Jessica Silva
- R v Mahmoud Hawi
The court can only refuse an application to film when one of the following exclusionary grounds has been met:
- It would reveal the identity of the jurors, protected witnesses or victims;
- Proceedings contain significant material subject to suppression orders or material that would prejudice other trials or police investigations;
- It would put the safety or security of someone at risk;
- The Chief Justice has directed the proceedings cannot be broadcast because it would be detrimental to the orderly administration of the court.
Chief Justice Bathurst said, “The court remains committed to engaging with the community and we look forward to sharing more court news and updates via our Twitter and Facebook accounts well into the future. I would encourage any interested members of the community, the media and the legal profession to follow us for regular updates.”
The court’s full public policy on its use of social media is available at http://www.supremecourt.justice.nsw.gov.au
Sonya Zadel Jo Oakes
Media Manager (Mon-Wed) Media Manager (Thurs-Fri)
(02) 9230 8190 (w) (02) 9230 8190 (w)
0428 110 682 (m) 0411 235 740 (m)