The arm of the Government that manages courts and tribunals in the UK is today launching a team dedicated to promoting access for the press to report on proceedings.
The team, made up of representatives from HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the media, will make recommendations directly to HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood.
According to a spokesperson the group will “develop new ways to build strong relationships between media organisations and their local courts and improve and promote the existing guidance to staff relating to media access court reporting.”
The court system is undergoing a £1bn modernisation, including digital reforms in access to justice.
Court reporting has seen a steep decline in recent years in line with cuts and closures across local newspapers up and down the country. Smaller newsroom teams with larger workloads have meant that journalists are less able to leave the office in order to pursue a story in the courtroom.
Acland-Hood said: “The reporting of court proceedings has long been an important part of maintaining public confidence in our justice system. So its decline in recent years represents a real concern.
“I want to ensure that HMCTS is doing all we can to promote media coverage of court hearings as part of our commitment to openness and transparency, and I am pleased that media organisations have joined us to consider this issue together.
“I look forward to receiving its recommendations.”
The team will include representatives of the Society of Editors and the News Media Association and the Judicial Office. It will be chaired by Ed Owen, head of communications for HMCTS.
Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “The Society of Editors is delighted to be involved in this tremendously important work in ensuring open access to the courts for journalists.
“Nothing can be more important for local communities than to have faith that justice is being delivered fairly on their behalf and that can only be done by reporting court proceedings. The Society is grateful to HMCTS for initiating this procedure.”
Santha Rasaiah, legal, policy and regulatory affairs director for the News Media Association, added: “‘Court reporting is essential to open justice. The NMA warmly welcomes this HMCTS initiative to help the courts and news media, local and national, to work together in furthering and facilitating press access and reporting.
“This translates that vital principle into everyday practice, to the benefit of the public that they both serve. It is in itself another example of such constructive co-operation and we are pleased to be working together again.”