Press Association legal editor Mike Dodd, together with two regional newspaper editors, has called on the Lord Chief Justice to act on what they say is a problem of unlawful or unnecessary reporting restrictions being imposed by judges.
Mike, who is also editor of Media Lawyer, has sent a letter to Lord Chief Justice prompted by a case in Ipswich earlier this month.
In the case a judge banned the media from reporting the case of a man charged with causing death by dangerous driving because the victims’ families had not been told that he had changed his plea to guilty.
Despite a challenge from the East Anglian Daily Times the order remained in place for four days – forcing the EADT and sister title the Evening Star to delay their coverage.
The order was made under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 at the end of a hearing that had happened in open court with journalists present.
Now Mike has written a letter, supported by EADT editor Terry Hunt and Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover, arguing that the judge had no right to postpone the reporting of the case.
Copies of the letter have also been sent to the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the judge involved.
Mike told HoldtheFrontPage: “We do have this problem occassionally and there are three ways of dealing with it – either you can accept it, you can try to challenge it by putting your argument to the judge, or you can complain to the Court of Appeal.
“What we are looking for is some kind of recognition from the senior judiciary that we have a serious problem – going to the Court of Appeal is no longer a sufficient answer.
“The Court of Appeal is open to everybody, but so is The Ritz – the problem is that you’ve got to have a lot of money to go there.”
Mike said guidelines on reporting restrictions in crown court did exist and had been sent out to every court in England and Wales, but the problem was that a lot of judges did not seem to know they were there, or did not pay attention to them.
He said: “One might hope that the Lord Chief Justice will send a strong reminder to think very carefully about making reporting restriction orders.”