Warning over increase in court restrictions

The media may have won some notable victories in the Lords and High Court for open justice, but the judgments do not always “filter down” to the lower courts, according to ITN head of compliance, John Battle.

He claimed courts are now imposing more restrictions on the media than at any time in the past 15 years.

Battle said: “Almost always now where there is high-profile trial in the Crown Court there are restrictions that limit reporting. The problem arises because rarely are the media asked to make representations to the Crown Court before an order is made.

“Often the media have to play ‘catchup’, fighting against an order that has already been made and argue why it should be lifted, as opposed to why should the order have been made in the first place.”

Battle said new legislation to be wary of included changes to the Criminal Justice Act, which came into force in October. These give new powers to stop the media naming witnesses in criminal proceedings if it is thought publicity would make them reluctant to give evidence.

Dominic Ponsford and Jon Slattery report from the 2004 Law for Journalists conference

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