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Receptionist tries to bar reporter from covering sex case

suz-elveyA receptionist and judge attempted to bar a weekly newspaper reporter from entering a courtroom despite no formal restrictions being imposed.

Suz Elvey, left, senior reporter at the Kent Messenger, was sent to cover a case at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court which was to determine whether a 17-year-old boy with severe learning difficulties should be the subject of a Sexual Risk Order.

However, when Suz arrived and told a receptionist at the court she was going into court two, she was told to wait while the people inside were informed.

The receptionist returned and told Suz she would not be allowed in until a witness, a Kent Police worker, had finished giving evidence.

Recalling the incident, Suz said: “After consulting my news editor I asked the receptionist which Act I was being excluded under.

“She replied that she was only a receptionist and couldn’t be expected to know. I agreed with that and suggested she went back in and asked the judge.

“She refused to go back in so I said I was going in and started walking towards the court room. She said I couldn’t disobey a judge but she didn’t try to physically stop me.

“At this point the teenage defendant’s dad, who was in the waiting room because he was a witness, approached me and said he had no problem with me being in court and told me to just go in.”

After walking into the courtroom, Suz was then challenged again when District Judge Justin Barron stopped proceedings to ask if she was a member of the press.

When she confirmed that she was, he asked if she had received the message about staying out of the room until the witness had left the stand.

Suz added: “I said I had but the receptionist had been unable to tell me which Act I was being excluded under so I came in.

“He said I wasn’t being excluded and I replied that it was exclusion if I was being prohibited from entering a court room during a hearing.

“I said the evidence this witness was giving could have been vital to enabling me to report the case accurately. He interrupted me by saying something like ‘OK, OK’ and stopped trying to kick me out.

“He then made a big thing about putting a section 39 on, and explaining what that meant. I was allowed to stay for the rest of the hearing, which went on until almost 6pm, without incident.”

District Judge Barron put the permanent Sexual Risk Order in place on the defendant, after the teenager admitted having sex with an underage girl and sending explicit photos.

The order prohibits him from having any sexual contact, physical or virtual, with anyone under 16, and stipulates he can only access the internet on devices fitted with Kent Police-approved monitoring software that officers can check at any time.

HTFP has asked Maidstone Magistrates’ Court for a comment on the incident.


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  • October 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Good work Suz.
    Someone needs to have a word with the judge about his ad hoc legal approach.

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  • October 23, 2016 at 10:01 am

    How fortunate that the Messenger had a senior reporter in court who was quite clearly not the type of individual to be cowed into submission – an unsupervised junior (increasingly the norm in court reporting these days) may have meekly accepted this blatant and inexcusable attempt to prevent the reporting of this case.
    Some years ago a court receptionist tried to prevent me from taking a laptop into court but was unable to quote the relevant Act prohibiting me from doing do – I can still recall the look of cold fury on that woman’s face when the court clerk said he had no problem with me bringing in aforementioned laptop!

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