Reflection on Court Orders

Court Orders

Section 29 Orders – Bans the press reporting the name, address, school or other information about a child under 18 (victim, defendant or witness)

Anonymity Orders – Victims of a sex offence – this order is automatically placed for life

Section 4 Orders – Made by court to postpone reporting – if there are two trials about the same people – the media will be banned from printing so as not to interfere with either of the cases

Section 11 Orders – Anonymity to defendants or victims in cases of blackmail and cases of national security. It bans name, address and any particulars being published. This has to be made straight away at the Magistrates Court.

Challenging Court Orders

All orders can be challenged by the media apart from victims of sex offences as the anonymity order is automatic

It bans people from reporting elements of cases but the press have the right to challenge

To challenge you must write a not to judge – give this to the clerk to pass on or ask the judge verbally

You must give notice to the prosecution and the defence of your intention to oppose an order. The court is supposed to give the media notice of intention to impose order

The court can vary or lift orders

Sometimes courts can make illegal orders so you must challenge it so you can report on it e.g. putting a section 39 order on an adult over 18

Even when the courts have incorrectly placed an order you must obey it until it has been varied or lifted

Section 11 Orders

These are used in blackmail and national security cases – it bans the name, address and any other particular – it gives anonymity to defendants and victims

If name or matter has already been mentioned in public proceedings, a section 11 order cannot be made after

Section 11 will be made when they are necessary in the interest of administration of justice

You can argue it is in the public interest to name the defendant and get the section 11 varied or lifted

Judicial College Guidance says that banning the publication of a defendants address may wrongly identify someone unconnected to the case

Courts try to use the order to protect the defendant’s children but this is not allowed

Section 4 Orders

They are to avoid substantial risk of prejudice to a later case

If there is a large gap between cases (4 months or over) it can be argued that you could report as people will most likely have forgotten the information by the next case. Also, it may result in more victims coming forward

Section 39 Orders

Once the defendant turns 18 years old this order expires

If it is a case at crown court they have to apply it – but it can be challenged

If the defendant is given an ASBO you can argue that you need to name them to make the ASBO effective

If it is in public interest e.g. Robbery or Murder you can argue to lift it

If it is a case about a teacher at a large school you could argue to get the order varied so that you could name the school as the individual child won’t be recognised from that

Babies and Toddlers – won’t be aware of the publicity so you might be able to get it lifted (usually if the child is under 5)

They cannot be used on children who are dead or not part of the proceedings

Challenging a Section 39 Order

It varies from judge to judge about if it is lifted or not

You could ask for it to be varied if lifting the order is not successful

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Covering Sex Offences

Anonymity

The victim is automatically given lifelong anonymity by the court under the Sexual Offence Amendment Act 1992 to save embarrassment and trauma

Under Section one of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1992 after an allegation has been made it is illegal to include, in any publication, any matter which is likely to lead members of the public to identify, during his or her, lifetime, the person who is the victim/alleged victim of that offence.

The ban includes:

  • The name
  • The address
  • The identity of any school or other educational establishment attended by them
  • Any still or moving picture of him or her

The order starts from the moment an allegation is made by the alleged victim or anyone else, even if no one is charged and it is automatic.

It remains even if the allegation is later withdrawn, where the police are told, whether the offender is prosecuted and whether anyone is convicted.

Anonymity applies to the target of an attempt to conspiracy to commit a sex act.

You have to be cause about Jigsaw identification – public putting information together and figuring out who it is referring to.

If the victim is not related to the defendant then you can print about the defendant without having to be too careful, however, in the case we saw the victim shared their surname with the defendant so you would have to be careful about what to print e.g. you could not put that it was their stepdaughter as this might lead to identification of the victim.

Jigsaw Identification

Section on bans publication of any matter that is like to lead to identification

For example, if the victim attends a large school, you could name the school as people won’t be able to identify the person, you would have to be careful about giving further information e.g. 14 year old who plays the violin – this could lead to identification as there might not be many 14 year old violinists at the school

You need to check the information that other publications are printing, if all publications give different bits of information about the victim – all publications would be in breach of the Act if this happened.

If the case is within a family then the publications should agree beforehand about printing the name and omit the relationship or not identify the adult defender and describe the abuse.

Media organisations can be fined for inadvertently publishing material which breaches the act.

In some circumstances the other can be lifted or varied to enable the media to report a case:

Only four ways you can identify a victim of a sex attack:

  1. If they die
  2. If they have signed a waiver to lift their anonymity
  3. If they have lied and made a false allegation
  4. If they are convicted of a crime and use the fact they were a victim of a sex offence as mitigation

Challenging Court Orders

You can challenge all order imposed by the court except in sex cases because victims of sexual offences have automatic anonymity.

As a journalist it is important for me to know the laws, this will help me from been sued, fined and will help to keep my reputation in tacked. I want to be a trustworthy, truthful and follow the guidelines. If I was to go into court journalism these are key as, you can ask for the anonymity to be lifted, if it is the public’s interest.

Reflection on Courts and Contempts of Court

There are many different courts:

  • Magistrate’s court- Anyone charged with any crime will be heard here first. Mostly adults but children can appear here for a serious case. Defendants are represented by solicitors and there are three magistrates that sit on the bench
  • Crown court – serious cases which carry a sentence of 6 months imprisonment or more. It hears appeals from the magistrates court
  • Youth court – 18 and under
  • High court
  • Civil court – Private disputes between individual and businesses
  • Family court – custody cases of children
  • Appeal court – appeals from the crown court are always heard at the court of appeal in London in front of 3 judges

Court Protocol:

  • Guards will search bags – no weapons or cameras allowed
  • No photographs to be taken inside the court building
  • When you enter a court room you must remain silent and bow to judge. If the judge is speaking you are not allowed to enter the court room until he has finished.
  • You cannot eat, drink, text or read papers in court
  • You must have permission form the judge to take notes unless you are a member of press.
  • Anything said in court you have absolute privilege

You can print whatever is said in court as long as you publish both the prosecution and the defence case – unless already found guilty – this can only be done within days after attending court.

Covering Court:

10 point rule (what you’re allowed to report) at a magistrate’s court:

  1. Name of court and magistrate
  2. Name, address, ages and occupation of defendant
  3. Offence charged with
  4. Name of solicitors
  5. Decision to commit for a trial
  6. Court defendant is committed to and due to appear at next
  7. Date of next hearing
  8. If they were given bail
  9. If legal aid was granted
  10. The decision of the court to lift any restrictions

If you breach the rules you can be fined and brought to court yourself

When proceedings start:

Contempt of court act:

  • Before a person is arrested the media can report all the facts of the case, interview victims and say a person’s previous convictions
  • Except for teachers – under the Education Act 2011 – media cannot report the name of the accused unless charged
  • The moment a person is arrested the restrictions are in place
  • Media can’t print anything which prejudices a person’s case and the right to a fair trial (innocent until proven guilty)
  • Proceedings start when:
  1. A person is arrested
  2. A warrant for arrest has been issued
  3. A summons has been issued
  4. A person is charged
  5. An appeal has been lodged
  • You need to check with the police before you go to print to check if a person has been charged or not – it will change the story you’re allowed to print if they have

The 10 point rule prevents a risk of prejudice to a jury trial

If in the charge that is read to defendant says details of circumstances are given you can report these

  • You are not allowed to report on a person’s previous convictions.
  • You cannot say why a person was refused bail but you can report if it was granted or not.
  • You need to check pictures before publishing in case identity is going to be an issue in the case.

If you print the former address of a defendant you must state they do not live there anymore or you might be sued by the present occupants.

If the defendant shouts from the dock that he is innocent you can report this as a jury would know in due course that the charge has been denied.

To write a full story for the paper when there aren’t many facts the media usually describes the court room scene e.g. what the defendant was wearing, how many people in the public gallery, what the defendant looks like, the background of the area that the crime took place etc.

Youth Courts:

  • Public are not allowed in but the media can be there
  • Under section 47 of the Children and Young Persons Act the press must not report the name, address, school or anything that might identify a person under 18. This can be a defendant, witness or victims.
  • A youth Court can lift the anonymity if the press if it is in public interest e.g. ASBO’s
  • You can get around it by writing a report that does not mention it was heard in a Youth Court.

It is contempt of court:

  • To take pictures inside court/crown court building
  • To record proceedings
  • To pay witnesses for stories who are due to appear in and up and coming trial. You can pay them and interview them after they have given evidence but not before

Contempt:

  • Having disrespect for rules and orders of court
  • You are in contempt if you publish material that might prejudice a fair trial and influence the jurors mind
  • In law you are in contempt if a publication creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to proceedings and proceedings are active
  • You can face fines and five years in prison
  • You are in contempt if you should in courts, tape record or even eats sweets in courts
  • You are in contempt if you identify a juror
  • You are in contempt if you breach a court order e.g. section 39 – order on a child

2 types of contempt:

  1. Common law – publishing material which creates a substantial risk of prejudice to proceedings (imminent or pending), breach by being reckless, by publishing interviews with witnesses during a trial.
  2. Strict Liability – publishing material which creates a substantial risk of serious prejudice to active proceedings. The court decides if the publication has created the risk regardless of the writer’s motives.

Contempt starts when proceedings are active (listed earlier)

Contempt resumes if a defendant lodges an appeal.

Contempt Ends:

  1. When a person is released without charge
  2. No arrest is made within 12 months of a warrant being issued
  3. Case discontinued
  4. The defendant is acquitted or sentences
  5. Defendant is found unfit to be tried

Substantial Risk:

  • Publish facts at a distance before the trial because it is likely the jury will forget what they’ve heard.
  • This means as long as there is a 4 month gap before a trial you can publish more information.
  • Under “substantial risk” you are able to publish more details of a case if it is being held in a different area. Only in papers – not on-line as it could be seen by jurors.

Before Sentence:

  • When a person has pleaded guilty or found guilty proceedings are still active until sentence.
  • Media can still print background cases in breach of order and be safe to do so
  • Because you cannot prejudice a judge.

As a journalist the information above is key this outlines the laws of what I can and can not publish if writing for courts. it outlines key protocol and facts. The ten point rule I will have to try and memorise for the exam as this I think is really important. if these rules are broken then the company I may work for may get into trouble and sued. it will also affect me and my credibility and reputation.

First Session – Introduction/Defamation

On Monday we had our very first session in journalism law. This is incredibly important as it showcase what you can and can’t do when writing or within specific industries. The knowledge gained from the session will potentially stop myself from been sued and damage my professional reputation.

In the session we looked at defamation what it is and cases which had defamation involved and some where it isn’t defamation. This helped to gain a better understand on how to differentiate between fact or opinion.

I personally feel that this session was more of a refresher for me as I studied media law within my A levels so have some understanding.

What is defamation?

A statement is defamatory if it is untrue and damages a person or company’s reputation

In law, a statement is defamatory if it “tends to”:

  1. Expose them to hatred, ridicule or contempt
  2. Causes him to be shunned or avoided
  3. Lowers him in the esteem of right thinking members of society
  4. Disparages him in his business, trade, office or profession

The person complaining does not have to prove it is defamatory just that it tends to be defamatory

Examples:

Publishing that someone is a cheat or a liar is defamatory

Saying someone has financial difficulties when they do not is defamatory

If you think that a story will libel someone check with your publication manager

There are three things a person must prove for a defamation claim:

  1. It refers to him
  2. It is defamatory
  3. It has been published to a third person

Papers are at risk if they do not publish the age and address of a criminal just in case there is a person with the same name (which has happened before!)

Defences:

There are seven defences against a defamation claim:

  1. Justification – you have to prove words are true
  2. Fair comment, for giving honest view on a matter of public opinion, the fact must be correct and not published out of malice
  3. Absolute Privilege
  4. Qualified Privilege
  5. Accord and Satisfaction
  6. Offer of Amends
  7. Reynolds Defence 

Justification:

Show words are true on the balance of probabilities

Fair comment:

Honest opinion made without malice

It allows you to say that a film was rubbish and actors should be sacked for their performance – it is your opinion and you do not mean malice by it

Absolute Privilege:

You have absolute privilege for fair, accurate, contemporaneous court reports

You can print anything said in court as long as you publish both the prosecution and defence case and it is published within days of the hearing

You can print that someone has been called a paedophile or murderer etc. even if the person has later been found guilty

You are also covered by absolute privilege to print/publish comments/information made in Parliament and the House of Lords

Qualified Privilege:

This is for a fair, accurate report, published without malice on a matter of public interest

You are covered for things people say in all public meetings, press conferences and press releases e.g. police press conferences, council meetings, inquiries, village hall meetings etc.

It means you can print defamatory remarks made in these events without being sued

Accord and Satisfaction:

This is when you have printed a defamatory statement and agree to print a correction. This only works is the person accepts and is happy with this outcome

Offer of Amends:

If you have printed a defamatory statement you will agree to print an apology and pay damages. It can only be used if printed without malice

Reynolds Defence:

Report a story which is in public interest, even if it can’t be proved and included a defamatory statement, as long as it is responsible journalism

Section One Defence:

A newspaper has the added defence of a section one defence, this protects from comments made by readers of online articles e.g. Hull Daily Mail

Not defamation:

  • You can’t defame a dead person
  • You can only be sued for a year after the article was published. This is tricky with online articles now – it would need to be removed immediately after a person has sued for defamation (as it has happened that someone has sued twice for the same article as it was still up online)
  • A man cannot sue for defamation if he agreed to the article being printed

Example:

  • The Mid Staffordshire Hospital inquiry was published
  • The people who published it were covered by the defence of justification and the publication of the official report was covered by qualified privilege