Unauthorised recording of court or tribunal hearings is absolutely forbidden and, in the worst cases, perpetrators may well face jail. In one case, a woman who made a recording of Employment Tribunal (ET) proceedings and posted it online came within a whisker of hearing the clang of prison gates.
Following the ET hearing, she used Twitter to point listeners towards her website, where the recording remained publicly accessible for over three months. Her conduct prompted the Solicitor General to seek her committal to prison for contempt of court on the basis that she had interfered with the administration of justice.
Ruling on the matter, the High Court noted that the evidence that she had made the recording was overwhelming. It stopped short of finding that she knew when she recorded the hearing that she was prohibited from doing so. It noted, however, that a finding of contempt does not require proof of such knowledge.
The Court accepted that she made the recording because she genuinely considered herself to be at a disadvantage before the ET as an unrepresented litigant for whom English was a second language. She posted the recording because of her genuine sense that she had been wronged and that the ET had treated her unfairly.
She had, however, maintained the recording on her website even after it must have become obvious to her that its publication constituted a contempt. Her deliberate defiance of the ET over such a sustained period was so serious that only a term of three months’ imprisonment would suffice.
However, in suspending the term for a year, the Court noted that she suffers from anxiety. The recording had been taken down from the internet and there was no evidence that she had any intention of repeating her conduct. She was, however, warned that the sentence would be likely to be activated were she to commit any further acts of contempt. She was ordered to pay £8,591 in legal costs.