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Editors call for more training for court staff after access row

jeanetteEditors have called for additional training for court officials after an usher and clerk tried to ban a regional journalist from a Crown Court hearing last week.

Officials at Worcester Crown Court attempted to prevent award-winning Birmingham Mail reporter Jeanette Oldham from entering the court after misunderstanding a judge’s ruling.

The order, imposed under section 4 (2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, merely postponed reporting of the case in question until it was finished rather than banning reporters entirely.

Mail investigations editor Jeanette, pictured, had to seek permission from the judge to enter the hearing after queries were raised by court officials about her presence.

Now the Society of Editors has called for training for court officials to halt what it called a “worrying trend.”

It said: “While we recognise in Jeanette’s case that the hesitation to grant her access to the hearing was rectified and that she was ultimately allowed to enter the court, there has been a worrying trend in recent years of court officials attempting to stop legitimate attendance and reporting by the media.

“The Society is working with HM Courts and Tribunal Service to look at ways in which better press access to courts can be achieved and we will be suggesting that training for court officials in the laws around media attendance and reporting should be ongoing.

“It has long been a central principle of law in the UK that justice should not only be done, but that justice should be “seen to be done” and, in this case, were it not for the awareness by the journalist in question as to her rights, she may have been prevented from legitimately attending a hearing of immense public interest.”

The hearing at Worcester Crown Court was the second day of a case involving cancer surgeon Sudip Sarkar, 47, who denies one charge of making a gain through fraud by false representation.

He is alleged to have lied about his ability to conduct keyhole surgery when he applied for an £84,000-a-year post as consultant general surgeon at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital, in Redditch.