A profoundly heartbreaking story unfolded before the eyes of the nation this week as the disappearance of ABC employee Jill Meagher in Melbourne dominated the headlines. Friends and family had their worst fears confirmed early this morning when police found the body of Jill buried in bushland. A man has been arrested and charged with alleged rape and murder, and amidst all the chaos, Victoria Police are urging people to give it a rest on Twitter and Facebook.
Messages of hate directed towards the accused have been thrown all over the internet on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, but Victoria Police are calling for calm.
Social media was credited for helping to solve the Meagher case, but now it looks like it may just hurt it.
It all has to do with contempt of court, you see. Victoria Deputy Police Commissioner Graham Ashton explains:
Victoria Police has been overwhelmed by the enormity of the public support for this investigation expressed through social media.
Whilst the widespread willingness to assist has been most welcome, I must now ask that members of the social media community refrain from posting inappropriate comments that might jeopardise a successful prosecution.
Legislation dictates that nothing should be published that might prejudice the trial of an accused after they have been arrested or charged. That point has now been reached and as Jill's husband rightly pointed out this morning, restraint must be exercised so that the judicial process can run its course.
Victoria Police remains incredibly grateful to all those who have sought to assist our investigations. Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with Jill's family and friends at this most difficult time.
The courts represent the law of the land, and every citizen needs to respect the law for it to function correctly. To tweet or post something in contempt of court could risk the entire prosecution process, so please: think before you tweet.
Our thoughts go out to Jill Meagher's family in this difficult time.