The Court Service is imposing new fees on journalists for the court ‘lists’which are the staple of crime reporting.
The scheme started this week in North and West Yorkshire. The Court Service said it will be issuing ‘reminders’to courts to make the charges.
Reporting of the justice system will be seriously undermined if the Courts Service persists, according to Scotsman editor Mike Gilson who chairs the Johnston Press editorial review group – a group of senior editors at the company.
Regardless of the size of the company, under the plan all news organisations will have to pay £5 for the first 10 pages and 50p a page after that for Magistrates court lists.
Press Gazette understands that The Bradford Telegraph &â€ˆArgus, which covers 12 courts a day, has calculated that it could cost up to £40,000 a year.
Journalists will need to call their local court every time they want a list to find out how many sheets will be needed.
HM Courts recently sent news organisations emails, seen by Press Gazette, saying it was ‘changing the way in which they charge for the provision of court lists to the press.”
Gilson said: ‘As the editorial review group we will be trying to find out how these costs have been worked out – these prices are ludicrous and it’s something that concerns us greatly.
‘The key to it is that justice needs to be seen to be done and anything that puts a high cost Charge plan to see court lists detriment not only of newspapers but also to the justice system.
‘If this is national in one fowl swoop that will stop the listings of convictions and that is a service that has grown over the years – it shows blanket coverage of court rather than the vagaries of whether you are in the right court room at the right time. We will be calling for a rethink.”
Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said: ‘The courts’ complaint is usually that the press doesn’t cover courts enough nowadays. They can’t have it both ways.’
Press Gazette understands that The Bradford Telegraph, which covers 12 courts a day, has calculated that the move could cost the paper up to £40,000 a year continue.
A HMCS spokesman said: ‘The fees are statutory charges that are set to recover full cost for the work undertaken by both HMCS administrative staff and judiciary.
‘These fees have been in existence for a long time. They are set out in the Magistrates’ Courts Fees Order 1993, and 2005 – more recently increased in October 2007 after a full public consultation.
‘The Magistrates’ Courts are the only court that provides extracts of the court register (regarding criminal outcomes) for publication in a newspaper. The cost covers the time and resources spent to undertake this duty.
‘Photocopying fee charges are a general charge in all courts and are calculated by averaging out the time spent by admin staff when conducting any form of copying function requested by the court user.”