Free booklet from Judicial College helps reporters ensure justice is seen to be done

A new edition of guidance on open justice and reporting restrictions in criminal courts has been published by the Judicial College, Newspaper Society, Society of Editors and the Media Lawyers Association.

The new third edition, intended to provide a single easy-to-use reference for courts and journalists, includes a checklist detailing the points every court should consider before imposing any restriction access to or reporting of a case.

The booklet, Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts, can be downloaded in full here.

The joint guidelines have been revised by specialist media barrister Guy Vassall-Adams, following a meeting between the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, the Society of Editors, the Newspaper Society and the MLA, which represents in-house lawyers with national news organisations.

The updated guidance reflects and incorporates numerous changes in both statute and case law that have taken place in the last few years and are relevant to reporting of criminal courts.

The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, said in the foreword to the new edition: "Open justice is a hallmark of the rule of law. It is an essential requisite of the criminal justice system that it should be administered in public and subject to public scrutiny.

"The media play a vital role in representing the public and reflecting the public interest. However, as is well known, there are some exceptions to these principles. Difficulties and uncertainty can sometimes arise in ensuring they are correctly applied and observed."

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: "Open justice is a vital part of democracy and an absolute necessity in maintaining faith in the Criminal Justice System.

"This guide is a helpful reminder to all those concerned that reporting restrictions should only be imposed where absolutely necessary, and I will be circulating it to prosecutors across England and Wales.

"The press reporting of court cases allows the public to see and hear the prosecutions conducted in their name and I am determined that reporting restrictions are only applied for by the prosecution as a last resort."

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said: "Since the first guide to reporting restrictions was published fewer inappropriate orders have been published.

"The courts have a better understanding of the media and listen to reporters when orders would make their work as a conduit to the public more difficult. Openness maintains confidence in the justice system and that benefits all who work in it.

"We are grateful to the Lord Chief Justice for encouraging this update and the lawyers who have applied their expertise to it."

Santha Rasaiah, director of Parliamentary, editorial and regulatory affairs at the Newspaper Society, which represents the regional and local newspaper and magazine industry, said: "Open justice matters. Local communities know what goes on in their local criminal courts because the local media covers them by tweet, by blog, by full reports in print, online and broadcast.

"This guide not only provides a succinct summary of applicable reporting restrictions, but also a checklist that helps the court to 'stop and think' whether any further restriction in any particular case is really justified."

 

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