This is amended (1 May 2019) guidance on how to prepare for the first-year law test, in response to the 2019 mock.
In this year’s test, Part A (quick questions) and Part B (longer answers) will each carry between 40% and 60% of the mark. There will be 50 marks overall – 2% for each mark.
Big questions you must always be asking as you go through the test paper:
- Is this an active case?
- Is there a right to anonymity here (for alleged sex victims, and victims of slavery/trafficking; for children in youth court, for teachers who have been accused with a crime related to their work, but not charged). Anonymity ALWAYS comes up in the test – but it is not always in the form of a direct question about anonymity.
- Might this prejudice a court case? If so, that’s strict liability contempt of court.
- Might this be defamatory? If so, you must say WHY.
- Does this breach copyright? But also: is this allowed under fair dealing?
The sub-editing question can be make-or-break: some people did not cross out offending passages in the sub-editing question but underlined or gave some other indication. YOU MUST CROSS OUT to get the marks. If you don’t, YOU GET NO MARKS (but you will get marks for your reasoning). And you need to understand what is allowed under the eight points, and what can be said in addition – some inoccuous extra details are usually safe, as long as they don’t relate to anything that might form evidence in the case. Think about “extra” details that might be prejudicial, because they might hint at guilt: an aggressive manner, having a Nazi tattoo – that sort of thing. If the defendant might claim a case of mistaken identity, then it’s not safe to describe their appearance or show their picture.
It IS okay to say someone has been charged (which means accused) and is facing trial: it’s difficult to report the hearing if you don’t say these things!
In the 2019 test proper, some students believe defendants should not be named, either because they had not yet been found guilty, or because they had not been charged. This is seriously wrong:
You must give the name, age and address of the defendant; you can give the name of a victim if they’re named in the charge, and automatic anonymity doesn’t apply (but you might say reporters should check whether reporting restrictions have been imposed).
And no one appears in court as a defendant unless they have been charged. Why would they?
In the human trafficking story (in the mock), the policy was that if you didn’t spot the potential breach of anonymity, the number of marks you could get was slightly restricted, regardless of how many other points you raised.
Media law protects journalists too: remember this. Journalists sometimes have to defend their rights and privileges, especially regarding open justice and freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive information of importance.
If you get stuck, remember: a list of topics covered in the test (defamation, anonymity etc) appears on the front page of the test paper.
This year, you don’t need to worry about the Freedom of Information Act.