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Restrictions are unravelled

Editors are to be briefed on new guidelines on court reporting restrictions.

Details of the changes are also being sent to crown court judges so that both sides can fully understand and apply reporting restrictions.

The move follows concerns raised by publishers and editors with Lord Justice Judge, the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, when he addressed the Society of Editors.

They included instances of reporting restrictions being applied incorrectly or inappropriately.

It also forms part of the Society of Editors’ and Newspaper Society’s longstanding work on the promotion of open justice.

The new guidelines were prepared after meetings between several senior judges and media organisations and spell out when reporting restrictions are mandatory and when judges would need to consider applications for restrictions from counsel. Judges are also reminded that discretionary restrictions should only be applied when they are really necessary.

Copies being sent to the media will brief editors on the law to make them feel more able to comment when judges are considering imposing reporting restrictions. Importance is being placed on justice being carried out in public, and being reported to the public.

Lord Justice Judge said: “Following an unrestricted exchange of views and information, the principle of open justice has been reinforced without any corresponding diminution in the independence of either the judiciary or the media.

“I hope that problems of mutual concern will in future be addressed in the same direct and robust way which has culminated in the production of these new guidelines on reporting restrictions in the Crown Court.”

Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors said: “We particularly welcome the reminder about the importance of the principle of open justice.

“We believe the guidelines will go a long way to avoiding unnecessary disputes and help the free flow of information from the courts to the public.”

Santha Rasaiah, head of regulatory and legal affairs at the Newspaper Society, said: “This joint initiative, which seeks in a practical way to assist both courts and the media to negotiate the intricacies of reporting restrictions and safeguard the operation of the principle of open justice.”

Copies of the new guide can be printed directly from the Society of Editors website:

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