Opposition peers have put down amendments to clause 88 of the courts bill, which is seen by the Newspaper Society and Society of Editors as creating a new danger to court reporting.
Clause 88 would enable magistrates, crown court judges and the Court of Appeal to order that a newspaper, editor or journalist uninvolved in a criminal trial pay the costs of those involved, if there has been “serious misconduct” by them, whether or not this amounts to contempt.
The Lord Chancellor originally announced that he would introduce the power in the wake of the Sunday Mirror and Leeds footballers case. The Government said in the Lords that it would make regulations allowing the media or another third party to make representations.
Lord Hunt of Wirral said in the Lords: “Often, it is left to the local and regional media to ensure that people are aware of how the criminal law operates.
“The wide-ranging and, to some extent, uncertain powers to make substantial costs orders against the media will be a disincentive to the reporting of proceedings. For smaller papers, comparatively small sums could exert a chilling effect on the reporting of court proceedings.”
The NS and SoE are also fighting new reporting restrictions in the criminal justice bill.
They object to proposed automatic restrictions which would prevent reporting that an application for quashing of an acquittal and for a retrial order was underway in the Court of Appeal or its outcome, until after the end of the retrial or until any possibility of such proceedings had ended.
By Jon Slattery