Removal fears for press room at Winchester court

Britain’s second biggest court complex because managers say they need more space for barristers to talk confidentially with their clients.

A number of news organisations have protested and said the move could compromise coverage of trials at Winchester Crown Court and even undermine court proceedings.

Press Association south coast reporter Martin Halfpenny said: “If the room goes, where are they going to put notices about reporting restrictions and orders? “It’s also a safe place to file copy. The alternative would be to file copy from the landing where it could be overheard by witnesses who haven’t been told anything about the case.

“The room also enables people to put their coats, bags and computer equipment in a secure place.”

Winchester regularly hosts highprofile trials – the biggest in recent years was that of the serial killer, Rosemary West.

According to Halfpenny, the court frequently has to cater for 25 or more journalists.

He said the proposed closure of press facilities is being opposed by newspapers and media organisations including the Basingstoke Gazette, Bournemouth Echo, Independent News Service, Southern Daily Echo, The News, Portsmouth, and the Hampshire Chronicle as well as PA.

Court manager Noreen Haig said: “This building was opened in 1973 at a time when criminal business wasn’t as busy as it is now. Winchester deals with a great number of high-profile and sensitive cases.

“I’ve asked for members of the press to let me have any objection before a decision is reached.”

She emphasised that no decision has yet been made and the matter is still out to consultation.

By Dominic Ponsford

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