The range of laws of which the competent journalist and his or her editor needs to be aware continues to expand year by year, Walter Greenwood, joint editor of McNae’s, warned at the launch.
Leaving aside contempt of court, there are at least 17 criminal offences and several more in the offing which a journalist can commit in the course of reporting.
“In some cases the offence is committed by the editor or publisher only; in other instances the offence can be committed by any journalist reporting the case. Almost every year there is more law that a trained journalist needs to be aware of to keep himself and his paper out of trouble.”
Greenwood warned that the Home Office in particular is constantly putting forward new criminal justice legislation.
“Senior civil servants seemingly cannot make any revision to the criminal justice system without creating some new reporting restrictions – and yet more offences which a journalist can commit,” he claimed. “Bills are put before Parliament without proper consideration as to whether the reporting restrictions proposed are really necessary.
“New restrictions on reporting seem to arise because the government departments – and many MPs – do not trust the press and do not trust jurors, magistrates or even judges.”