Tribunal rules should be changed to aid press, says judge

The rules governing employment tribunals should be changed to allow journalists to make representations over reporting restrictions, a senior judge has claimed.

Lord Nimmo Smith said yesterday it made both practical and legal sense for employment tribunals to exercise discretion on case management and control procedures to allow journalists to make requests about the lifting of reporting restrictions.

He said it would assist greatly if the matter “were put beyond argument by the introduction of an express provision” into the law covering employment tribunals.

That change, he said, would then enable an application to the employment judge or tribunal to make representations about the variation or revocation of a restricted reporting order.

He said: “This need not be unduly burdensome on the parties to the proceedings.”

Lord Smith, sitting with Lady Dorrian and Sir David Edward QC, in the Extra Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session, made his statement as he was ruling on an appeal by freelance journalist Fiona Davidson over a restricted reporting order made during employment tribunal proceedings.

The court agreed that tribunal was right in having allowed her to make representations about a reporting restriction that had been imposed as the case she was cover involved allegations of sexual misconduct.

He said: “A party who seeks to keep a full restricted reporting order in force, and thus to restrict the freedom of the press to publish reports of the proceedings fully and contemporaneously, can hardly complain if a journalist, who is able to demonstrate a legitimate interest in whether or not the order is varied or revoked, seeks to make representations thereanent.”

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