A reporter has told how an unnamed court clerk tried to stop him reporting a knife crime trial: wrongly claiming there was a reporting restriction in place, and wrongly saying this meant the reporter could not cover the case at all. A Section 45 order was subsequently imposed to protect the teenage defendant’s identity: the reporter said that when he tried to challenge it, the clerk ignored his request to address the judge. The reporter won the day: the judge lifted the order so the 17-year-old could be named. Read more here (note that the facts in the story have not been verified for this website).
Journalists protested when some courts announced they would no longer supply the media with lists of cases that were due to be heard – including charges and details of defendants – because of the General Data Protection Regulation. The Ministry of Justice quickly corrected the “misunderstanding”. Read more.
Media law trainer David Banks wrote a provocative blog post on the affair, in which he also asked why the lists are not available to the public.
A rape victim “went into meltdown” when she heard her identity revealed on the BBC Asian Network, a court heard. The reporter knew she had a right to anonymity but wrongly assumed the name used in court was a pseudonym. The editor who approved the script was tried for breaching her anonymity but cleared by a judge for his “honest mistake”. But the case raises several interesting points for journalism students:
- The editor, not the BBC, was charged
- Pseudonyms are not used in court
- The reporter had never covered a court case – and the editor didn’t know
- The reporter was distressed by the error
- No BBC editor had been charged before
Note also that the case was heard by a judge, sitting in a magistrates’ court.
Had the BBC itself been charged, the outcome might have been different. Or might not.
Read the BBC report here.
A journalism tutor said he regretted agreeing to leave a court hearing with three students after a defendant “refused” to go on with the hearing. He explained that they had only stepped in to the court to have a look so he did not stand his ground. “After a couple of minutes of disruption, the usher came over and politely said, ‘I can’t ask you to move to a different court room but it would really do me a huge favour if you did’.” On Twitter, journalists reacted badly to the erosion of open justice and the lecturer said he would not give way a second time. Read more.
Journalists don’t have the same freedoms in the family court as they do in others, but in a test-run aimed at improving transparency, lawyers who also blog are to be allowed to report cases. But they must prove their credentials. It’s only for a trial period. Read more (August 2018).
The far-right agitator Tommy Robinson was released from prison after Appeal Court judges ruled he had been jailed too abruptly for alleged contempt. He was convicted within only five hours of being arrested for live-broadcasting details of a trial when restrictions were in place, meaning his barrister did not have adequate time to prepare a mitigation plea. But he would face a re-trial at The Old Bailey. A report in the Telegraph sets out the story of the saga and Robinson’s background.
Journalism students spent a week monitoring 300 cases at Bristol magistrates’ court and found 50 of them to be newsworthy, but only saw a professional journalist on the third day of the exercise. They found deficiencies in the justice system – some of them pointed out by a magistrate. Read more in The Justice Gap.