Reporting on court hearings

1 Mar

Did you know that any member of public is allowed to attend public court hearings? We have the right to know what goes on in there but if we’re honest, most people do not have time or motivation to go! It’s ok though, journalists do the nosey work for the rest of us. But there are restrictions for reporting on court hearings and if these are not adhered to, the journalist can face up to two years in prison.

  1. Contempt of Court: the journalist must not report anything whilst the defendant is still on trial if it could affect the jury’s decision e.g. the defendant’s previous convictions. this restriction also means that the journalist is not able to ask about the deliberations of the jury, nor can they take photographs or tape recordings of the hearings. these restrictions are mostly in place in order to ensure that the jury’s opinion is not affected by anything other than the information heard in court.
  2. Restrictions on Access: The public and journalists are not allowed to attend private court hearings, meaning there are restrictions to what can be reported on those cases.
  3. Reporting Restrictions of 1981: These give the court the power to postpone or ban certain information.

There are two main forms of defamation of the English law:

  • Libel: Defamation in the permanent order e.g. written form
  • Slander: Defamation if the transient form e.g. spoken word
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