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).
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.
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.