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.
Child murders Jon Venables and Robert Thompson were tried in an adult court and publicly named by a judge when convicted; but on release, they were given new identities to protect them from attack. When Venables was jailed again in February 2018, The Sun ran a feature on the six criminals in Britain who had closely guarded, lifelong anonymity. Read it here.
A reported proposal to test “digital trials”, with hearings held online, would be a threat to open justice and could confuse some defendants into pleading guilty, say critics and academics. Elsewhere, concerns have been expressed about local journalists having access to the court. Read a piece in The Guardian here.
As part of a billion-pound modernization of the court system, a panel was set up in January 2018 to help the media have better access to the courts: partly to counter a decline in court reporting. Proposals included training staff to understand the media’s needs. Read more