A new protocol to guarantee the release of prosecution material to the press has been agreed between editors and the authorities.
The announcement was made at the Society of Editors’ conference in Windermere, and was subtitled “the public’s need to know”.
It means that the media will be allowed access to prosecution material from court that is normally withheld.
This has been agreed between the Crown Prosecution Service, the Association of Chief Police Officers and media representatives with the aim of setting out details of the material to be revealed.
Launching the initiative, Ken Macdonald QC, the director of public prosecutions, said: “We are determined to provide an open and accountable prosecution process by ensuring that, wherever possible, we give the media access to all relevant prosecution material.
“This document is the result of close cooperation between all the organisations involved. We have all worked together to reach agreement and I would particularly like to thank the media representatives who have participated so constructively.
“We will monitor closely the way the protocol operates and will review it next year to ensure that it is delivering its aim.”
Prosecution material which has been relied upon by the Crown in court and which should normally be released to the media, includes:
Prosecution material which may be released after consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service in consultation with the police and relevant victims, witnesses and family members includes:
On behalf of media representatives, Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: “The protocol should help to ensure that justice is open, demystified and more accessible. Unless there is an extremely good reason for withholding information, it is important that the wider public should see material upon which juries base their verdicts and the courts make their decisions.
“The DPP’s commitment to greater openness will help the media to inform the public about the working of the criminal justice system. It is an example that should be followed as greater knowledge and understanding will help to improve public perceptions.”
Andy Hayman, chair of the ACPO media advisory group and assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: “We welcome this protocol, which has been achieved through much constructive discussion.
“The media plays an important role in helping the public understand the work of the police and the criminal justice system and a close working relationship is essential.
“I hope that the agreements we have reached in this protocol will benefit the flow of information from the criminal justice system to the media and the public.”
The document includes paragraphs which state: “A key objective is to achieve effective mutual cooperation. Criminal justice agencies and the media have different roles to fulfil. The primary function of the police is to protect public safety. The role of CPS is to prosecute appropriate cases firmly and fairly. The media’s task is to provide the public with information they have a right to, swiftly and comprehensively.
“Our overriding objective is to provide an open and accountable prosecution process, by ensuring the media have access to all relevant material wherever possible, and at the earliest appropriate opportunity.