Judge in plea for talks with journalists on reporting restrictions

A senior judge, Lord Justice Leveson, has sent a note reminding judges of the importance of a guidance booklet on reporting restrictions in the Crown Court, and also sent out copies of the booklet.

Leveson’s intervention follows complaints raised by Mike Dodd, editor of Media Lawyer, over a reporting ban imposed at Ipswich Crown Court.

He is also encouraging presiding judges across England and Wales to discuss the issue of reporting restrictions at future meetings.

In the note, Leveson encourages judges to consider informal dialogue with editors and other representatives of their local media to discuss concerns in relation to reporting, and says that he is aware that one set of discussions has led to the agreement of a local protocol, which he understands to be working well.

Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said: “It is a good idea for editors up and down the country to approach the presiding judge for their area, or the resident judge at their Crown Court, to get discussions going on these issues.

“This worked well in the past when we first produced the guidelines with the Judicial Studies Board. The guidelines and informal contacts with judges transformed relationships with the courts not least in that now even the most junior reporters are listened to in courts when they question the need or validity of reporting restrictions.”

“It has been suggested that after six months there should be a meeting to discuss continuing problems and a possible revision of the reporting restrictions booklet.

“In the meantime editors have been asked to let the society and Mike Dodd know when there are discussions with judges and how they proceed. It is always helpful to know when unusual restrictions are applied or when they are successfully challenged.”

Guides to reporting restrictions in the Crown Courts and Magistrates Courts were written for the Judicial Studies Board by Santha Rasaiah of the Newspaper Society and Bob Satchwell in 2000 and endorsed by Lord Justice Judge, who was then the senior presiding judge.

The Society of Editors has asked that comments be sent to info@societyofeditors.org and m_dodd@msn.com.

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