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.
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
An episode of the Channel 5 programme Can’t pay? We’ll take it away was found by Ofcom not to have breached the privacy of a person in a public-facing role who was filmed when a building was entered so goods could be seized from a debtor. Respect for privacy was balanced against the right to freedom of expression and whether the programme contributed to a debate on a matter of general interest. Ofcom agreed that the enforcement of a court writ was not private, and that there was acute public interest in the activities of the people enforcing it. Covert filming did not necessarily breach privacy. Read more from page 20 of the Ofcom broadcast bulletin (December 2017), here.
Parents and even editors are afraid to talk about what goes on in the family courts, a freelance journalist declared at a debate on privacy versus accountability in this sensitive area. “A sense of fear pervades the system,” said Louise Tickle. Democracy suffered, the audience was told. Read more from The Transparency Project here.
The police have an extensive set of guidelines on what to release to the media, and when. They’re here
Despite open justice, empty press benches in court mean “justice operates essentially unseen and unheard by the public”, a senior barrister has warned in an article. He says this gives rise to false myths about how court cases operate. Reporters often piece together reports based on “fragments” of a case, writes Andrew Langdon QC, chairman of the Bar Council. Read more.
A judge refused to allow more than three reporters into a youth court hearing to avoid overwhelming a defendant accused of attacking a police officer. She later relented after key evidence had been heard. PA Legal Editor Mike Dodd said court rules did not limit the number of reporters who could attend youth courts – which are closed to the public. He said the judge had placed the defendant’s welfare above the principle of open justice.
Reporters have been allowed into previously-closed hearings in the Court of Protection but they fail to explain its workings to the public, a barrister has complained. Read more