Courts

Courts

  • There are a number of different courts
  • Magistrates   Crown    Youth    High    Civil    Family    Coroners
  • Youth Courts are for youths aged under 18 who have committed criminal offences.
  • Civil courts resolve private disputes between individuals and companies- such as a person suing for injuries sustained in a car accident or if a person had an accident at work they may sue their employer for compensation- or a couple have split up and arguing over a dog for example.
  • Family courts deal with hearings to decide custody cases of children.
  • Coroners courts hold inquests when a person has died to determine the cause of death from suicides to murder. Depending on the coroners’ decision the police may bring criminal charges after the case. – someone died at hospital and it wasn’t expected, will be taken to coroner’s court.
  • Magistrates Courts- Anyone charged with a crime be it murder or theft will appear at a Magistrates Court first. It is for adults but children can also appear in the court if they are charged with serious crimes such as rape or murder. Defendants are represented by solicitors in magistrate’s courts and three magistrates sit on the bench and decide their fate- if it stays in magistrate’s court, it may be sent to crown court. – Animal cruelty 6 months max so will be dealt with in magistrates
  • The Crown Court deals with serious cases which carry sentences of six months imprisonment or more. It also hears appeals for cases which have been sentenced in the magistrates court. In crown court defendants are represented by barristers, the cases are heard by judges and trials are heard by 12 jury members selected at random from the community- Jury Service.
  • Appeals from crown court are always heard at the court of appeal in London in front of three judges.

Youth Courts

  • Youth courts are for defendants 18 and under
  • The public are not allowed into youth courts but the media are if you can prove you are a bona fide member of the press.
  • Under section 47 of the children and Young Persons Act, the press must not report the name, address, school or any other particulars that may identify a person aged under 18 concerned in the proceedings, this includes a defendant, witness or victims.
  • You could say a 14-year-old boy from East Hull but you might not be safe saying a 14-year-old boy from Thorngumbald as he could be recognised.
  • If you breach the order you can be fined up to £5,000. In 2003 the Plymouth Herald was fined £1,5000 for printing a picture of a 15-year old boy who was convicted for stabbing a pupil.
  • You can get around the anonymity by writing a report that does not mention that is was heard in a youth court. For example, you can interview a young person who was stabbed and as long as you make no mention of the court you are safe.
  • A youth court can lift the anonymity for the press if they argue it is in the public interest, this rarely happens except in ASBO cases because for an ABSO to work people need to know who the offender was.

Magistrates Court

  • Anything reported in a court is covered by Absolute privilege so you can’t defame a person or get sued for writing anything libellous.
  • Absolute privilege covers all courts, inquests and the Houses of Parliament, you have absolute privilege for fair, accurate, contemporaneous court reports. You can print anything said court as long as you publish both the prosecution and the defence case and publish it within days of the hearing.
  • You can print that someone has been called a paedophile or a murder or their if it is said in court even if they are later not found guilty.
  • Although it allows you to safely report courts it does not allow you to breach court orders and it does not cover things which are shouted out from the public gallery.
  • The courts can place other orders on court cases to ban the media from reporting details in them, such as identifying victims of sex offences, naming children and even naming defendants. If newspapers break these laws they are in contempt of court and face fines and prison. There are basic rules covering courts which start from the moment person is arrested until they plead guilty or are found guilty by a jury.
  • Anyone charged with a crime be it murder or theft will appear at a Magistrates Court first.
  • A journalist should always ask the court clerk to give them the name, age and address of the defendant- This is important because without it you could wrongly identify a person with the same name up for an offence and they could sue you for defamation. Journalists should ways check with the court to see if there are any reporting restrictions in the case that they need to be aware of.
  • Under the Magistrates court act you have to abide by the 10-point rule in your reports.

 

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