News outlets from across the West Country took part in a roundtable discussion on court reporting with the head of UK court services yesterday.
The meeting in Bristol, jointly hosted by the HM Courts and Tribunals Service and the Society of Editors, is part of a wider effort to promote open justice and media access to legal proceedings in the regions.
Further meetings are planned across other parts of England and Wales in the coming months and follow the creation of the national HMCTS media working group in 2018.
HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood met with SoE executive director Ian Murray and editors, reporters and representatives from the Bristol Post, Gloucestershire Live, Somerset Live, PA and Heart Radio.
Acland-Hood said: “Open justice is a fundamental part of our legal system and media reporting of court proceedings remains the primary means by which the wider public has access to the vital work of our courts and tribunals.
“We are delighted to be working with the Society of Editors to understand how we can improve the way we work with the regional media as part of our wider effort to build and maintain public confidence in the justice system.”
Murray said the meeting “proved to be very productive and positive”, adding: “The importance of open justice cannot be overstated particularly in these times of a fragmenting media landscape.”
In October last year HMCTS, which is part of the Ministry of Justice, issued new guidance on dealing with the media to staff at courts and tribunals across England and Wales and made its advice public for the first time.
It makes clear that journalists are entitled to certain classes of information and should have proper seating within courts – all issues which have caused problems in the past. It also encourages staff to assist journalists.
At the SoE annual conference in November last year, Evening Standard court reporter Tristan Kirk warned of “dwindling numbers” of journalists reporting from UK courts, with only two in London getting “proper coverage”.