IPSO rejected a complaint from pop star Jamelia after she was named in a newspaper report about her estranged step-brother, who was convicted of murder. The Editor’s Code says relatives of criminals should not normally be identified unless relevant. The paper said there was a public interest because the killer was only the second person in the UK to stand trial under a pseudonym. Significantly, he named the star in his application for reporting restrictions, saying the case was receiving heavy media coverage because she was a “close relation”. Read more here.
The Manchester Evening News chose not to challenge an unusual decision to extend a reporting restriction on naming rapist Reynhard Sinaga when was convicted of assaulting 48 men. He was believed to have many other victims who may not have known they had been drugged and assaulted. Police applied for restrictions to protect those unknown victims. Unusually, a decision was taken to keep the restrictions in place until sentencing, after Christmas, because “there were concerns about the availability for counselling services over the holiday period,” wrote reporter Beth Abitt. A rare case of a paper deciding suppression was in the public interest, perhaps. Read more.
An article in the British Journalism Review makes familiar points about the threat to open justice caused by the lack of journalists in court; but then goes on to question the idea that people in court cases must always be named, especially in the digital age, when court reports remain searchable online long after print reports would have faded from memory. Academic and campaign Judith Townend says open justice should not merely mean catering to the needs of the media. Read the piece here.
Young journalists are warned they might breach a child’s anonymity by naming the school they attend. It is routine practice to avoid doing so. But in a case involving a teacher who had sex with a public, a reporter persuaded a judge that in a large school, the risk was tiny. He said there was a strong public interest in naming the teacher – and the judge agreed. But the important thing is that the reporter warned the judge in advance. Note that in other cases, judges have decided that it is the media that must decide what is safe – and face the consequences if they are wrong. Read more.
(This story makes a point about open justice that goes beyond what most students will need to know). A campaign group asked to see documents that were submitted as part of a court hearing to see if they helped in another case. The request led to a Supreme Court ruling that the principle of open justice extends to evidence submitted in a case, even if the judge did not read it. But Lady Hale also said that anyone wanting to see such evidence should expect to have to give a good reason for being given access. Any journalist applying for access is advised to quote the campaigners’ case. Read more.
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).
A judge declined to lift a temporary injunction preventing the media from naming two girls who carried out a brutal murder when they were only 13 and 14. Both had now turned 18, the age when teenagers’ right to anonymity would normally end. They were tried in an adult court with no automatic anonymity, but an injunction was put in place to protect them. The Press Association applied to have it lifted, but a judge extended the ban pending psychiatric reports. The court heard one of the girls had tried several times to kill herself. Read more.
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 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).