Coroners’ officers in the South East are being made aware of the importance of access to inquests for the press after a journalist was denied entry due to arriving one minute late.
The reporter, from Colchester daily the Gazette, was prevented from entering the inquest about a hanging by a coroner’s court officer in Chelmsford because proceedings had started.
Press Association legal editor Mike Dodd wrote to Essex and Thurrock Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray to raise the issue, reports Media Lawyer.
A coroner’s spokeswoman said it was not Mrs Beasley-Murray’s policy to exclude the press and public if they arrived late and steps had now been taken to ensure such an incident did not occur again.
She said: “The journalist was denied access to the inquest by one of the coroner’s officers who was unaware that members of the public or press should not be excluded from inquest proceedings unless it is for reasons of national security.
“The inquest taking place on this day was for a hanging, with a very distressed mother in attendance.
“When the journalist arrived the officer asked them to wait outside until that particular inquest had finished, after which they could enter the court for the rest of the hearing.”
The spokeswoman added that the officer was “deeply upset” about the incident and acknowledged they should have sought the coroner’s advice even though they did not want to interrupt the inquest.
The journalist was given a briefing about the case after the hearing ended.
James Wills, assistant editor at Gazette publishers Newsquest Essex, said: “It is always unfortunate when circumstances mean a reporter misses the very start of court proceedings and we are grateful, in this instance, the reporter was subsequently briefed on the case.
“It is vital all officers of the court are made aware of the press’s rights and we are hopeful this problem will not occur again.”
Hacker (14/04/2010 10:44:29)
What’s the story here? ARRIVE ON TIME stupid
Journo (14/04/2010 11:32:03)
Hacker has clearly never worked in the press if he thinks it is always possible to arrive on time…. most of us have 6 jobs to do at once!
Diesel74 (14/04/2010 13:24:40)
Journo, accepted, but some of us older types would knock out six leads a day, then some nibs, and still manage to arrive on time
Aragon (14/04/2010 13:52:37)
What world does Hacker live in? One presumes he is from the old school when journos would bash out a lead and retire to the pub for the afternoon before eventually becoming a sub where they could sleep most of the day, waking occasionally only to lament the low standard of the reporter’s work nowadays.