Industry chiefs will discuss a national court coverage “crisis” at a seminar to be held on the subject.
Last week University of Gloucestershire journalism lecturer Paul Wiltshire called for a “natioinal day of court coverage” to highlight the difficulty regional journalists face in covering courts.
The event, entitled ‘Crisis in our Courts – and How to Solve it’, will be staged at the offices of the Telegraph, in central London, on 18 January.
SoE executive director Ian Murray, pictured above left, said: “The society shares the concerns of Mr Whittingdale and many others both in the media, the judiciary and other walks of life that we are facing a crisis in the way open justice is maintained in this country.
“Fewer and fewer courts, crown and magistrates as well as many High Court hearings, are reported as budget cuts force publishers and broadcasters to restrict numbers of staff they can afford to send to the press benches.
“This is dangerous for democracy as well as community cohesion. British justice has for centuries been rooted in the understanding that it is carried out before the eyes of the world. Coverage by local newspaper reporters as well as radio and TV staff has until recent years ensured that transparency.
“Now, because so few journalists are attending hearings, it is as if the bulk of British justice, especially where grass root matters are dealt with, are carried out behind closed doors.
“Without that connection with justice carried out in their communities, the public’s understanding, trust and faith in the justice system must weaken and be subject to rumour, speculation and even trial by social media. It is imperative we find answers to how this can be averted and coverage of our courts improved substantially.”
“We know this one event will not solve the problem, but the society hopes it will kick-start an initiative that will enable real progress to be made.”
The seminar is free and will start at 10.30am, to be concluded by midday with a buffet lunch for those wishing to remain for a networking session.
Admission will be through registration only, and those interested should contact Angela Upton at email@example.com