Lawyers in bid to improve the lot of court reporters

Skrein: contempt of court an issue

The Fleet Street Lawyers Society has met with Lord Justice Judge, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, to plead for changes to make life better for court reporters.

At a recent meeting of the society, hosted by solicitors Richards Butler, members pressed home the need to ensure that legal notices containing reporting restrictions reached the media in time to stop newspapers and television being held in contempt of court.

They also want restrictions lifted on journalists using tape recorders in court.

Several newspapers have unintentionally breached the terms of court orders because they were simply unaware of them and have ended up explaining this to a judge.

The society’s lawyers discussed setting up a new system to get legal orders send to the media more effectively, suggesting a website or e-mails that could be checked by media lawyers rather than the haphazard system that now exists.

They would like the Lord Chancellor’s Department and either the Child and Family Department, which comes under the Official Solicitor’s wing, or the Treasury Solicitor’s Department to compile a list of e-mail addresses of all major national newspapers and television companies to which important notices should be sent. That would greatly increase the chances of an editor, night editor, legal manager or night lawyer seeing the notice, they believe.

A website could post orders for reference purposes.

The society felt that funding for these systems might be raised from the newspapers and broadcasters themselves so that they were self-financing.

Michael Skrein of Richards Butler told Press Gazette: "We have been interested in pursuing this issue because newspaper clients of ours have found themselves unwittingly in difficulty as the result of people not serving orders and not putting them on notice in an effective way."

Society members also told the judge that it was rarely possible for reporters to take a complete shorthand transcript of court proceedings and time constraints meant that it was not possible to order a transcription.

In order that journalists could report accurately what happened in court, they stressed it was vital they should be able to use tape recorders. They did not believe this would disrupt proceedings in any way.

The society is now awaiting the judge’s reply.

 

By Jean Morgan

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