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Journalist's bail hearing protest after entry ban

A weekly newspaper journalist successfully covered a bail application for a robbery and firearm possession case after she was initially banned from entering court.

Joanna Lean, from the Warrington Guardian, had already attended a preliminary hearing for the four defendants, one of whom had been granted bail and the conditions read out in open court.

But when she went to Warrington Crown Court for a bail application for another two of the four defendants, court staff refused her entry, Media Lawyer reports.

Joanna said: “Afterwards they also refused to tell me the results of the hearing because it had been held in chambers.

“When I asked why they had been, the woman told me it was a matter of course and that they usually were unless they were attached to a case.

“So the next morning I took a letter to Judge Roger Dutton and a few hours later got a call from an usher saying the judge agreed I could have the information.”

She added: “Next time I see a bail application on the court list I’ll be going down to see if they have taken any notice of my letter.

“Bail applications should always be held in public unless there is a real reason not to and reporters should be aware of this and willing to challenge court staff when they are wrongly shut out of any hearing.”

A court service spokesman said staff at Warrington Crown Court refused to allow Joanna admittance because they were being cautious.

He added: “The practice in the crown court is that applications for bail may be listed in private.

“If an application is made for a public hearing, it may only be refused if there are sound reasons for excluding the public.

“But the decision is one for the judge to consider, taking into account the interests of justice and the particular circumstances of the case.”