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Use of cell phones/tablets in courts under review

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The BC office of the chief judge is looking at how much access people should have to their electronic devices in the courtroom.

There is mounting pressure to ease restrictions and to standardize the policy governing devices such as cell phones and tablets.

Right now, the judge in the courtroom has ultimate say in how devices such as cell phones are used. In most courtrooms, everyone from lawyers to people in the gallery are told to turn their cell phones off.

“The understanding has always been the communication of those devices can interrupt the audio recording in the courtroom. That has always been expressed as one of the big issues,” says legal analyst Michael Shapray.

Plus it’s feared sensitive information from inside the courtroom might be transmitted via text to witnesses yet to testify, or that banned material could be instantly texted to blogs or Twitter.

But Shapray says reporters want to be able to use their devices to tweet and text as verdicts come in.

“Journalists want to be able to fairly and accurately report what’s going on in the courtroom. They want to be able to report it as quickly as they can,” he explains.

Media outlets have been invited to submit their opinions as the policy is reviewed.