The director of Court News UK has questioned the role of local newspapers in light of what he says is the dwindling number of court cases covered by regional titles.
In an interview with Vice Media, Court News’ Guy Toyn, who is also a 20-year court reporting veteran, said “You have to really ask yourself: what is the function of these local newspapers if they can’t keep people properly informed?”
Toyn said: “When I first came to cover the Old Bailey, there were about four or five agencies here. Now, there’s basically us and Press Association.
“And they used to have four reporters, now they have one. You don’t see national newspaper reporters turn up for many trials now at all.
“At the end of the Hatton Garden trial, for example, there wasn’t one national newspaper reporter present when they were convicted.
“The Soham murders [in 2002] was probably the last massive trial. It really has changed absolutely.
“Court reporting does take a long time, and a local newspaper can’t really sit around day in, day out and do it anymore.
“That’s why agency reporters are so valuable. But what we’ve ended up with is a situation where so many court cases just don’t get covered in local papers at all.
“We recently had a very interesting case where a guy carried out five serious sexual assaults in Poplar, east London. Those sexual assaults were never covered in the local newpapers- his arrest was never covered, nor was the opening of his trial, his conviction or his sentence.”
Although national titles still publish major crime and court stories, the cuts to regional titles has meant that stories don’t get told, argues Toyn.
He said this was “not only a dreadful shame because people aren’t being informed, but a tragedy for the democratic process as a whole.”
Questioned about the future of court reporting, Toyn said: “I think it’s limited, to be quite honest with you.
“People talk about televising the courts, and I’m afraid they’re talking absolute nonsense. It’s just ridiculous and would be no benefit whatsoever.
“The BBC and Sky have their cameras up at the High Court, but I think they’re more interested in the drama of the criminal trial then they are in justice.
“Journalism is in very real crisis and it means the bottom line is this: we’re all going to be under-informed. And no one’s up in arms about it.”