Further topics

The following briefings on key legal topics are designed to help students learn what they need to pass Coventry University’s media law tests – and to help them operate more safely as journalists.

Defamation
Contempt of Court
Reporting restrictions
Anonymity
Copyright
Data protection
Freedom of Information
Human rights
Privacy
Taking pictures, shooting video

Tweeting from court
Under new guidance, journalists and legal commentators may use laptops or mobile devices to file stories from courts, including via Twitter. Photography is still forbidden. The use of such devices can be withdrawn at any time. The public (and media students) must seek permission in advance.

Preliminary court hearings
Media are restricted in what they can say in contemporaneous reports of “allocation” hearings, at which magistrates decide whether a case should go to crown court. Under Section52A of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, reports are restricted to:

  • name of the court, and names of the magistrates
  • name, age, home address and occupation of the accused
  • “relevant business information” in a serious or complex fraud case
  • the offence or offences, or a summary of them
  • names of lawyers in the proceedings
  • date and place to which proceedings are adjourned
  • bail arrangements
  • whether legal aid is granted

Restrictions might be lifted, allowing more detailed reporting, but legal arguments about this cannot be reported until after the trial.

Anonymity for teachers
Teachers have automatic anonymity when accused of criminal offences against children in their schools – the first people in British legal history to have this protection. The anonymity ends if the teacher is charged, or the court agrees to an application to lift anonymity in the interests of justice.

The anonymity applies even if the accusation has been referred to in public – say, at an employment tribunal hearing.

Reporters must keep notes
The Press Complaints Commission (now defunct) made it clear reporters must keep their contemporaneous notes to demonstrate the accuracy of their reporting, after a newspaper was unable to produce them when a complaint was made about its coverage of an inquest.

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