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Journalists' complaint after exclusion from Molly Cunliffe hearing

Journalists have complained to court staff after they were excluded from a magistrates’ hearing in a toddler death case because of a lack of seating.

The hearing at Gloucester Magistrates’ Court concerned Rosemarie Meadows, the former owner of Tiddlywinks Nursery, in Gloucester.

It was here that 16-month-old Molly Cunliffe died in October 2005 after she accidentally strangled herself with a bag cord.

This week Meadows was fined £55,000 after admitting a breach of health and safety regulations.

Six reporters and a court artist arrived to cover the hearing on September 12 and, after waiting 30 minutes, were told there was only room for two journalists, Media Lawyer reports.

Other seats in the court were occupied by family members, staff from the Health and Safety Executive which brought the charges and other individuals.

Press Association reporter James Woodward said: “The press were given just a few minutes’ notice of this decision and had seconds to choose which of us were going in.

“Standing was not allowed and we were told to hurry as the case had already started.

“It was decided that I would cover the case, along with a reporter from the Gloucester Citizen newspaper. But there was clearly room for more chairs and standing would not have been a problem, to my eyes.”

Broadcasters from ITV and BBC and reporters from the Western Daily Press and Gloucestershire News Service agency were left standing outside. The court artist had travelled from Exeter.

Tom Morris, from the Western Daily Press, added: “They had plenty of time to schedule the case in Court One or Two, which hold at least 10 members of the press on the side benches of the court room.”

A Courts Service spokesman said: “As this was the first effective hearing of this case at Gloucester Magistrates’ Court, it was difficult to gauge the press interest in it but six places were made available for the media attending the hearing.

“However, the parties involved in the case brought another four additional observers to court at the last minute, including close members of the family of the deceased child.

“This reduced the available seating for the press to two seats.

“As this happened at such short notice, court staff did not have time to provide additional seats before the hearing started so arranged with members of the press to occupy the remaining two seats.There was no deliberate attempt to exclude the press.”


Bill (01/12/2008 23:35:33)
Boo hoo hoo! Serves the tw@ts right!