Who, What, Where, When?

Yes, it’s that time again, another post. Though, you don’t have to look at me with those same sad eyes as the dog in the picture! You don’t have to worry, you don’t have to put up with me for much longer! Oh, and the dog in the picture is my dog and he only looks sad because he is a Cocker Spaniel and that’s what they do; they look sad.

This week is about court reporting. The who, what, where and when inside a court may be confidential. In some cases the media is not allowed to report the names (and other information) and individuals involved in court cases, even though most cases are held in public and you can go and watch the case in court.

For instance, all pre-trial hearings have statutory restrictions set on then in s.8C of the Magistrates Court Act 1980. This restriction lasts until the case is deemed no longer active. Pre-trial hearings can include issues such as summary cases, bail and the transfer of the case to a Crown Court. There are a few things that you can report on: the name of the court, the judges dealing with the case, a summary of the charges, the names, addresses, ages and occupations of the defendants and witnesses and the lawyers involved and the arrangements made as to bail… Unless it is a crime that comes under the remit of the Sexual Offences Act 1992, in which s.1 states that you cannot identify the victims.This would include what is known as jigsaw identification, where it is possible to piece together who they are by the information given.

Youth courts are open to the media, however they are generally closed to the public.This is due to the obvious reason of protecting the minor involved. Whilst the media are allowed in the courtroom they are statutorily obliged not to state anything that may be used to identify the individual, under s.49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933. This restriction may be lifted in certain circumstances, this has most recently been seen in the case involving Will Cornick who stabbed and killed his teacher. The judged stated that naming Cornick was in the public interested and should act as a deterrent.

Here raises another question of what should happen to those who turn 18 during or after the court case. In Todd v DPP [2003] All ER (D) 92 it was held that the courts role was not to protect those after they turned 18 as they were no longer a child. This is an interesting point as one would think that they should still be protected as they event took place whilst they were a child and therefore should not effect their adult life. However, it is clear that the court has to draw a line somewhere and they have clearly chosen here as there cut off point.

But what about those ASBO’s (Anti Social Behaviour Orders for those of you who can’t remember)? Can those lovely darlings be named in the matter of public interest? S.49 in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 may apply here, however it is not automatic in relation to civil hearings. Basically any case that does not relate to criminal law may not be automatically covered by this Act. This would apply to the application of the ASBO, as the application procedure falls under civil law. However, if an ASNO is then breached it becomes a criminal case and would be heard in the youth court… A tad confusing, I know! Although s.44 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which covers the protection of minors within the media concerning civil matters should offer assistance. However, it has not yet been fully enforced and therefore it is possible to name an individual under the age of 18. Usually if a restriction is put in place a journalist can apply against this in the name of public interest. Good old public interest!

So there you have it, a low down on what you can and can’t report on in court. I hope this helps any young budding journalists out there that want to get their teeth into a great case and not get held in contempt of court!

Until next time,

R

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