UK Teen Sentenced to Two Months in Jail for Snapping Courtroom Photo

A 19-year-old man in the UK has been sentenced to two months in prison for snapping a courtroom photo. Paul Thompson was sitting in a public gallery last week — the defendant was a friend who was on trial for robbery — when another friend texted him to ask where he was. Thompson decided to snap a picture with his Blackberry to explain why he couldn’t talk, but was quickly arrested by officers who noticed what he was doing. He was then sentenced to two months in prison for “contempt of court” by Judge Barbara Mensah, who wanted to send out a strong message:

There are notices all around the court building about not taking photographs in court. This is a serious offence and the message must go out that people cannot take photos.

Although two months in jail seems harsh, it could have been worse: CBS News notes that the law gives the courts the right to jail someone for up to two years for photography.

(via The Guardian via Small Aperture)

Update: Apparently the teen was being a lot more disruptive than most news sources are reporting. Thanks Tom.

Image credit: Courtroom by ☺ Lee J Haywood

  • lloyd -

    That’s a massive security breach though.
    somebody taking a photo in a court room could put peoples lives at risk. :O

  • bevenke

    Two Months or Weeks?

  • Michael Zhang

    Good point — I can see how that be a MAJOR issue in a sensitive trial like in the NYC mafia cases

  • Michael Zhang

    Months — that was corrected very soon after I hit publish. Thanks :)

  • Dean W. Thompson

    Makes sense. It does really suck for him, but if it’s clearly posted then it’s the camera mans fault. IMO

  • bevenke


  • Anonymous

    If it’s an open hearing and anybody can be there and see, it’s laughable. I say it is way too harsh. Unless there is something serious left out of the (original) guardian story, he was merely stupid. While not an excuse, you need to demonstrate intent and harm and I have a difficulty seeing any. They are sending a young man to jail for two months for no good reason whatsoever just because they can.

  • Tatyana Skymyrka

    There are areas where taking a photo could have potential grave security risks.  Courtrooms, airport runways, luggage pickup areas, interiors of federal buildings, etc.  Although in many cases the person taking the photos is completely harmless and end up getting harsh punishment.  I think it’s because once photo is taken, who knows where it will end up, anywhere from flickr to the wrong hands.   These photos do not only show the layout, but also employees and others present. 

    I know there’s been much argument for photography in airports for example.  Not to stray from the issue, but many argue that there are satellite photos.  However, they do not show employee routines, id tags, labels on vendor/supplier/service vehicles, security personnel, etc.  Similar security concerns apply to government institutions, so tough break for the kid, but he should have read the warning signs.

  • Michael Marten

    This is a serious issue, as outlined here by David Allen Green:

  • Anonymous

    Hey that’s really a great post and a wonderful description out here, I really like the way things are being executed and discussed here.

  • Mr.New

    Makes sense. This quote from tells a little more.
    “Mr Thompson had been disruptive throughout the sentencing hearing. He was warned twice by the court usher to keep quiet in court before being finally asked to leave the court. He had also taken a photograph in court of the victim in the case who had suffered a violent robbery.Her Honour Judge Mensah dealt with the matter under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and not s.41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 as some media have reported. She considered the totality of Mr Thompson’s behaviour in court. In sentencing him she took into account his immediate admission of guilt and made clear the sentence included an element of punishment and deterrent to others.”