Covering Court

Court Protocol

  • When you enter courts security guards search your bags, you are not allowed to take weapons or cameras into the court buildings, you are not allowed to take any photographs in the court buildings- if you do, this could result in a prison sentence up to 5 years.
  • When you enter a court room you must remain silent and bow to the judge, when a judge is speaking you are not allowed to enter the court.
  • You are not allowed to eat, drink, text or read a paper in court.
  • You have to have permission from the judge to take notes unless you are a member of the press.
  • Anything that is said in any of these courts is covered by the defamation defence of Absolute Privilege.
  • The defence can only be used for a fair, accurate contemporaneous court report.
  • You can print anything said in 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 a thief it is said in court even if they are later not found guilty

Covering Court- 10 Point rule

When a person appears at court there are only 10 things you are allowed to report

  • The name of the court and magistrate
  • Name, address, age and occupation of defendant
  • offence charged with
  • names of solicitors
  • the decision to commit for trial
  • the court the defendant is committed to and due to appear at next
  • date of next hearing
  • if they were given bail
  • if legal aid was granted
  • the decision of the court to lift any restrictions

If you breach the rules you can be fined and brought to count. In 1996 the Gloucester Citizen was fined £4,500 after it reported the first hearing of serial killer Fred West and said he admitted killing his daughter.

Covering Court

  • The reason for the 10-point rule is to prevent a risk of prejudice to a jury trial by publication of the evidence in the case.
  • If in the charge read to the defendant details of the circumstances are given you are allowed to report these.
  • You are not allowed to report a persons’ previous convictions.
  • You are not allowed to report bail hearing or the reason for bail being refused. You can only say whether or not it was granted.
  • You need to check before you publish a defendant’s picture at an early stage in case identity is ging to be an issue in the case.
  • If you print a former address of a defendant you need to state they no longer live there or you could face being sued by the present occupants.
  • If a defendant shouts from the Dock that he is innocent, you are allowed to report this as a jury would in due course know that the charge has been denied.
  • To be able to write a full story for the paper when there are few facts available the media usually describe the courtroom scene, such as what the defendant was wearing, how many people were in the public gallery, how long it lasted, what happens next i.e case to crown court.

When Proceedings Start

  • Before a person is arrested the media can report all the facts of the case, interview victims and state a person’s previous convictions. The only exception are teachers. Under the Education Act 2011 the media cannot report the name of a teacher who has been accused of an offence unless they are charged.
  • The moment a person is arrested automatic restrictions are imposed on the case under the Contempt of Court Act and the media has to be careful what it reports.
  • A person is innocent until proven guilty and the media must not print anything which prejudices a person’s case and the right to a fair trial.

Proceedings start when:

  1. A person is arrested.
  2. A warrant for arrest has been issued.
  3. A summons is issued.
  4. A person is charged.
  5. Or an appeal has been lodged.

N.B You need to check with the police before you go to print if a person has been charged because it will change the story you are allowed to print.

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