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Defendant refuses to continue court case with journalism students present

A group of journalism students were asked to leave a courtroom after a defendant accused of burglary refused to continue with the hearing in their presence.

Three University of Bedfordshire students and their lecturer Jon Boyle left the hearing at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court, pictured, after the 33-year-old defendant said she “wasn’t happy to continue” while they were present.

After being “politely asked” by an usher, Jon says he “decided to do them a favour” by moving to a different courtroom.

Jon posted about the incident on Twitter, but has since received some criticism from fellow journalists for his response to the usher’s request.

MK Mags

He later admitted that he would have taken different action if the purpose of the visit had not just been to take a “look” at the courts.

In a post on Wednesday, Jon wrote: “A first at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court today as a 33-year-old defendant accused of burglary said she wasn’t happy to continue with me and the Uni of Beds journo students in the court room.

“We decided to do them a favour by moving court room after the usher politely asked.”

His post prompted responses from journalists including JPI Media content editor Ben Raza and former Oxford Mail assistant news editor Esther Beadle.

Ben, whose role is based in Hemel Hempstead, wrote: “If one of my reporters came back from Mags saying they didn’t get anything because a defendant got upset then they would be b******ed. At length.

“This is really poor to be honest [Jon] .I don’t agree with any journalist agreeing to let a defendant refuse the principle of open justice. And I don’t agree with MK Mags Court opposing the principle of open justice. I just fundamentally disagree.

“You’re teaching journalism: The teaching challenge for your students is to tell you, the usher, and the very flustered lady what the law is. Every young journalist needs to learn how to say ‘No. This is the law, so this is what we’re gonna do.'”

Jon replied: “I agree. It’s eating away at me that I moved as it’s not something I would have done if it wasn’t just a ‘look’ at the courts with three students, which I explained to them.”

Esther wrote: “With all due respect, that was the perfect moment to teach these students one if the fundamentals of court reporting. As organisations and institutions that should be open increasingly close ranks, and increasingly young reporters, then this is a very worrying example to set.”

Jon told HTFP: “I have covered loads of court cases over the years for local newspapers so I obviously agree with the tweets I’ve received from journalists saying that I shouldn’t have moved.

“I would just like to add some context to the incident. We walked in halfway through the trial and it ground to an instant halt as the defendant refused to continue, despite repeatedly being told by her solictor and the court clerk that we had every right to be there.

“After a couple of minutes of disruption, the usher came over and politely said, ‘I can’t ask you to move to a different court room but it would really do me a huge favour if you did’. So I agreed to help him out on this occasion as it was a uni trip.

“I told the students outside that I would never have left if I was reporting on the case and I’ve shown them the tweets I have received from journalists criticising my decision not to stand my ground. I’m always taking journo students on court trips – indeed today I took 23 Luton-based students to Luton Crown Court and then Luton & South Beds Magistrates Court – so next time we won’t move.”


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  • November 23, 2018 at 9:09 am

    I am glad Jon is contrite because the more courts get away with this ( and JPs do share information ) the more they will try it on. I agree this was a good opportunity to teach young reporters how to stand up to this nonsense. It is bad enough that many courts go unreported without the newspaper industry banning itself. Of course we want a good relationship with court officials, but it is obvious many of them don’t know the law.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 9:12 am

    You’d have thought that Jon would have seized on the good opportunity to demonstrate to his students how to ‘politely’ point out the law and insist on remaining, especially with this sort of thing becoming more prevalent. Poor show.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 10:40 am

    The court should have upheld the right of the public/journalists to be present instead of giving in to the defendant. You have to ask why she objected to them being there. I t may well have turned out she was innocent but does not excuse the fact that a court is a public building. Another example of press freedom being withered away.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Agree with David Scott.

    Many ushers think they are the law when they know little or nothing.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Keep approaching him for a comment until you get a response. Incredible decision by the lecturer.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    If the defendant had acted like this in my early days of covering Mags Court, the crusty old colonel, who chaired the bench, would’ve warned him that he was looking at a trip to the cells for contempt of court.

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  • November 23, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    *Hooks thumbs into lapels of imaginary gown….*
    Ahem….um…er…if it…[cough]….pleases your Worships, I wonder if I…er…[cough]…may trespass momentarily upon the court’s goodwill and, I appreciate, very limited time, to remind your Worships of the guidance recently issued by HMCTS on access to courts…”

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  • November 23, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    Since when does the defendant order the composition of a courtroom? Poor handling by the magistrate…

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  • November 28, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    wait a minute. Can everyone stop being so pompous?
    they were not covering the case, just casual callers.. (they should have got there at the start instead of halfway if they were that keen) and the court proceedings were being disrupted. The process of justice and reporting was not harmed in any way and the guy used common sense in my view in a difficult situation. He explained his actions and reasons clearly afterwards.
    Please climb down from the saddles of your high horses. The court was clearly at fault but the guy did the best he could at the time.

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  • November 30, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Totally agree with paperboy… usual drivel about newspapers being at the heart of justice and suchlike. It was an observation, he acted with courtesy and as long as the students know this would not be normal in a real situation, no harm done.

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