Courts and Criminal Justice System

Court of Protection Pilot 

A pilot scheme granting the public and media greater access to Court of Protection hearings across England and Wales is currently underway. 

Publicity and the Criminal Justice System Protocol for Working Together 

The Publicity and the Criminal Justice System Protocol for Working Together: Chief Police Officers, Chief Crown Prosecutors and the Media protocol sets out the details of the prosecution material that will normally be released to the media before, during and after trials.

Sharing Court Registers and Court Lists with Local Newspapers (pre-2020)

The Protocol for Sharing Court Registers and Court Lists with Local Newspapers sets out the arrangements negotiated by the NMA for free supply of advance court lists by magistrates courts and for free supply of the magistrates court register of judgments for reporting round ups. The protocol expects the Crown Courts to implement similar arrangments.

The protocol is also referred to in the updated joint guide on criminal court reporting restrictions by the Judicial College, News Media Association, Media Lawyers’ Association and the Society of Editors for use by judiciary journalists, Crown Prosecution Service and court staff alike. 

See Useful Links below for 2020 revised version.

Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts 

Policing and Crime Act 2017: reporting restrictions 

Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts (2015/2016)

This is the fourth edition of the guide on open justice and reporting restrictions in the criminal courts. It was published in April 2015 (and revised in May 2016) by the Judicial College,  News Media Association, Media Lawyers’ Association and the Society of Editors. The joint, common guide for judiciary, journalists, their legal advisors and the lawyers who appear before the courts is the result of a groundbreaking initiative on joint media and judicial working, instigated by the Lord Chief Justice in association with the NMA. It is published on the Courts and Tribunals website

Open Justice and covid-19

PLEASE CHECK JUDICIAL OFFICE AND HMCT WEBSITES FOR LATEST GUIDANCE

The NMA is a member of the HMCTS media group, so please feedback on any operational practical issues to santha@newsmediauk.org

Do discuss operational  arrangements with local courts judiciary and court staff. There has been positive feedback on covid-19 and remote court reporting, as a result of constructive and helpful relationships and arrangements between titles, reporters and courts.

HMCT guidance to court staff on telephone and video hearings including open justice and media access

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hmcts-telephone-and-video-hearings-during-coronavirus-outbreak. (updated 27 March)

  1. Open justice
  2. Media access to proceedings

Resumption of jury trials

Statement from the Lord Chancellor on the resumption of jury trials

Courts and Tribunals Judiciary - Jury trials to resume this month: Arrangements to allow appropriate distancing to be maintained at all times include providing a second courtroom, linked by closed circuit TV, to enable reporters and others to watch the proceedings, and another court room to use for jury deliberations.  Courts staff will ensure that entrances and exits are carefully supervised, and that all necessary cleaning takes place.

Operational note on the resumption of jury trials restarting Monday 18th May. The NMA met with the chair of the judicial working group Mr Justice Edisk, in follow up to our submission. He set out the special arrangements that will be in place to support media access in the agreed courts. Practical issues were raised such as means of quick communication with court staff and judge,  whether for  immediate notification  and fix of  IT problems preventing proceedings being heard in the media annex,  or to enable  media representations to the judge and  the importance of advance notice of applications for reporting restrictions to ensure media inclusion.  Please note that remote access from outside the court building  for jury trials will not be available to journalists, given this would be considered a matter for Parliament, given the significant issues of principle, practice and statutory changes required.

Updates to the HMCTS gov.uk site were published on Friday 15th May with information on a number of issues, including jury trials and open justice:

 The NMA will be meeting with HMCT in the week of Monday 25th May to discuss how these have worked in practice, so please do send any feedback from your court reporters, positive as well as negative to santha@newsmediauk.org.

Judicial Office updates including listings, courts and updates on remote hearings etc- Please check latest versions

Cloud Video Platform (CVP) will start to be used in some civil and family hearings, as well as Skype. Please see our updated telephone and video hearings during coronavirus outbreak and a guide on how to join a telephone and video hearing

Judicial Office has published a number of important updates by jurisdiction. For example:

Open Justice

Open justice is a fundamental principle in our courts and tribunals system, and will continue to be so as we increase the use of audio and video technology. In considering the use of telephony and video technology, the judiciary will have regard to the principles of open justice, as they do now. As now, judges may determine that a hearing should be held in private if this is in the interests of justice. A range of measures will continue to support the principle of open justice:

  • Access to open hearings if/where a public gallery is available, or a third party may join the hearing remotely
  • Transcripts for hearings in those jurisdictions where they are available now. Any party or interested person is able request a transcript. Judges may direct that the transcript be made available at public expense where appropriate
  • With the permission of the judge, an audio recording of a hearing can be made available to be listened to in a court building with the permission of the judge, in jurisdictions where this is already done, the notes of the hearing can be made available on request.

Privacy ruling on naming individuals under criminal investigation

In a judgement handed down on 15 May in the case of ZXC v Bloomberg LP [2020] EWCA 611 the Court of Appeal ruled that, in general, individuals being investigated by law enforcement agencies have a reasonable expectation of privacy up until the point that they are charged. However, this can be displaced by “public interest” considerations. The Court accepted that there are cases in which the public nature of the activity in question (such as rioting or electoral fraud) would significantly reduce, perhaps even extinguish, the reasonable expectation of privacy. Furthermore, if a suspect’s name is released by the police for legitimate policing reasons then they may well find such a claim “difficult to establish”

 “ZXC” is an American businessman who was associated with a company under investigation by a UK law enforcement body. He brought an action against Bloomberg, the American news company, after it published details from a letter of request (a confidential law enforcement document). The full judgment can be found at: https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2020/611.html&query=(ZXC) This decision comes in the wake of the ruling in Sir Cliff Richard v BBC and South Yorkshire Police in 2018.

In ZXC v Bloomberg LP Lord Justice Simon opined that “the law should recognise the human characteristic to assume the worst (that there is no smoke without fire), and to overlook the fundamental legal principle that those who are accused of an offence are deemed to be innocent until they are proven guilty”

Lord Justice Underhill said that the claimant’s reasonable expectation of privacy was not outweighed by a countervailing public interest.  In this case the balance between the claimant’s Article 8 rights (privacy) and Bloomberg’s Article 10 rights (freedom of expression) was deemed to be “quite a fine one”, but the Court could not interfere with how the balance had been struck by the High Court Judge since he had not misdirected himself on the law. Underhill LJ distinguished between publishing an allegation of misconduct (which he said does not attract a reasonable expectation of privacy – although it may give rise to a defamation claim) and publishing information that an individual is the subject of a formal criminal investigation (which does).  Simon LJ cautioned that “The Court must not allow itself to be drawn into confining the important rights of the press under article 10, so that it ceases to be the public watchdog of freedoms in a democratic society and becomes the muzzled lapdog of private interests”.

There is concern that the Court of Appeal’s approach reduces legitimate scrutiny of police powers and does not give due credit to the public’s ability to understand the legal presumption of innocence. Pia Sarma, editorial legal director of Times Newspapers, commented: “Privacy laws protect a right to private life.  What the press is allowed to report depends on how those rights are balanced against the freedom of expression, which the law says cannot be curtailed unless necessary in a democracy.  It would be extraordinary if the public rarely heard about arrests, but this is the direction in which the law is going”.

Media Access

We are committed to promoting media access to the work of courts and tribunals.

For physical hearings, even when many of the participants join remotely, accredited media will continue to have access to dedicated press seats as reflected in current HMCTS media guidance although current arrangements will follow wider public health advice relating to social distancing.

Where accredited journalists wish to report on proceedings remotely then they should put in a request to the relevant court as set out above. There have been some early examples where courts have enabled the media to have remote telephone and video access to hearings.

Cameras in court

New regulations on the recording and broadcasting of judges’ sentencing remarks in open court in have recently come into force. The NMA has supported these latest developments in opening up the courts and has discussed operational arrangements with the MoJ and HMCTS.

The NMA has produced a note on the new regulations .

Coroners Court 

The Chief Coroner issued this guidance on 30 September 2016 in relation to helping coroners in all aspects of their work which concerns the media. The publication of Coroners and the media followed a series of meetings between the News Media Association and the Chief Coroner during his term of office to discuss the reporting of inquests, promotion of open justice and address problems in coverage of coroners’ courts. The NMA encouraged the production of the guidance and provided input. It  was published on the day that His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC retired as Chief Coroner.

Other Useful Links 

Family Courts

The NMA has played a leading role on opening up the family courts.  

Following consultation, the President of the Family Division has issued guidance to assist the court, the parties and the media in circumstances where a reporter attending court may wish to apply to vary reporting restrictions in a case before the Family Court or the Family Division of the High Court.

All Courts and Tribunals

The NMA contributed to the HMCTS Guidance to court staff on supporting media access.