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PAJE 10 Dealing with the Press

PAJE 10 Dealing with the Press


How to deal with the press and other media is often a consideration for judicial office holders. Yeah, dealing with the press for judges I think it has two separate aspects. There’s the issue of the press in the courtroom or the hearing room and then there’s our own personal dealings with the press which can also be an issue. The press are critical to the way justice is administered in this country and having a fair reporting of our proceedings is central. Transparency is key and the starting point is the press should be able to fairly report all proceedings. There will of course be exceptions, there are exceptions for example in relation to young people and identifying who they are. Some proceedings are held in private, but even there the move is towards more transparency the president of the Family Division indicated that in family proceedings there should be more reporting than currently is the case. In criminal proceedings the general proposition is that the press are not only allowed to be present, they’re always allowed to be present, except in very rare cases of national security. But they should be able to report what they hear and see. There may be circumstances where proceedings may not be reported at all or there may be a delay, but they’re very much the exception rather than the rule. In fact I’ve just had a case come in front of me in relation to the press and press restrictions the defendant in this case who is not legally represented, doesn’t know the law, has made an application for his name and address not to be read out in court. Now the position on this is quite clear this is something you’d only do very exceptionally it’s covered by section 11 of the contempt of court act which says that there are circumstances where it may be ‘necessary’ and that’s the word the statue uses, to restrict the reporting of something which of course can include name and address. But our starting point, as I say is freedom of expression. It’s open and transparent proceedings and that’s something which is very very central to our criminal justice system. So you know you have the challenge then he doesn’t have a lawyer, so you don’t have the assistance of a formal application he’s given me certain information which he says supports his argument that other judges in other courts have made an order, in fact already so I’m treading with caution I’m having inquiries made to see whether any orders are in existence because he hasn’t brought them with him and this is always the difficulty isn’t it with litigants in person, they don’t know what they need to bring and is it their fault well not necessarily we can’t assume that every person knows what is expected of them before they come to court. So I’m waiting for the outcome of those inquiries to see whether I can get some confirmation that some orders are already in place. If that’s the case well that’s the end of the matter if not I’m then really going to have to ask myself is there a risk to his life, serious injury? What evidence is there in this particular case, because those are the sorts of things which might fall within that sort of exceptional category where I would make a section 11 order. I’ve been released, well continuity is a good thing. This is exactly what I thought would happen we’ve made inquiries and we can’t get we can’t get any information either way. So I can’t confirm what he’s saying is true but I can’t say what he’s saying it’s untrue. Here’s really weird, outside I was stopped by a journalist I didn’t know her, so this woman stops me in the street, a stranger, she was you don’t know who I am but I know who you are! Oh god! She goes I’m sitting in the back of your court three weeks ago on that Indian case yeah and they were like twenty or thirty journalists and there wasn’t enough space. Somebody had said there’s not enough space for all of you. So they’d been told you can’t come in so I said NO! Come and sit in the lawyers benches, come and sit where probation are, come and sit in the sides all of you are welcome, and I think I must have said something, and I can’t remember what I said, but I must have said something like you know… ‘Open justice is central to what we do, open transparency is key and all this sort of stuff.’ And she told me that the headline in the national newspapers in India the next day was nothing about the merits of the case but about open transparent English justice. We take it for granted we take it for granted and when you get that sort of feedback, and also I think it’s really important in extradition, because people have perceptions of other countries legal systems. You know they come in and they’ve got preconceptions that will be like what they’ve seen before. But you know I have to say when she said that I was so chuffed because we didn’t do anything special we didn’t do anything we wouldn’t do but that was the headline in their newspapers. So you know yeah so we’re doing a lot of that sort of stuff. I was here earlier this week… At the Bailey we were having a meeting about getting messages to students about what the judiciary do. Well the Lord Chief Justice has got this project at the moment, he’s really concerned that when we had the ‘Enemy of the people’ that it actually showed a lack of understanding in the public about what we do. So I mean how do you get opportunities to engage with the public and say you know we’re not the enemy of the people you know we make difficult decisions, we make decisions which may be unpopular, we apply the law, we are not political, we stand apart. And so you’ve got to get those messages across. Well we made the inquiries with the judges and nothing came back confirming what the defendant was arguing. I therefore considered the test and as I said earlier these proceedings take place in public unless there is some… and there’s a guide that judge is used to this and what the guide says is that I have to consider whether ‘I have been provided clear and cogent evidence to show that publication would create or materially increase the risk of death or serious injury.’ And nothing I heard came close to persuading me. So I explained in simple English to the defendant why. I then invited the press back in and told the press exactly what had happened because I don’t want to do things in secret we do things in open, in open court and open court is where we ended up because that’s how we do justice. There are occasions of course where the judge becomes the news himself or herself fortunately we have a press team which is available 24 hours a day. And they are there to advise. They’re there to advise on how to deal with the media if any response for example is necessary. They’re also there to assist us more widely in relation to how and where we speak because there are also understandable restrictions on the sort of things judges speak on, and I certainly commend the press office who are now dealing with all aspects of media whether it be our interaction through Twitter, Facebook or face to face. [Music] [Music]

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