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Ministers ‘need to do more to boost local court coverage’

scales-of-justiceA court reporter has called on the government to do more to encourage local newspapers to cover courts by giving out clearer information about forthcoming cases.

Tristan Kirk, court reporter at London’s Evening Standard, attacked what he described as the “opaque” level of information provided by court officials and the Ministry of Justice.

Speaking in a panel discussion at the Society of Editors conference in Manchester, he said that the level of court coverage in the capital was “getting steadily worse.”

But he said that government as well as the industry had a responsibility to address the issue by improving communication.

Said Tristan: “We need to confront the reality that people aren’t being sent to court and ask ourselves why that is.

“There is a responsibility on editors to have some faith in the courts as a source of news.

But he went on: “The government and the courts service need to make sure newspapers have the information they need to send people to court. In turn that would lead more editors to want to go down to court more regularly.”

“The police don’t necessarily want to engage with the press post-Leveson so finding out about it all is more of a challenge.”

Tristan also argued that court coverage should have been included in the BBC-funded local democracy reporter project, saying it was “tremendously disappointing” that it was taken out.

But Joy Yates, editor of the Sunderland Echo and group editor of Johnston Press North East, disagreed, saying that court coverage was a “unique selling point” for her titles.

John Battle, head of compliance at ITN, also called for a database of cases and court order which could be easily accessed by journalists.

And he said it was “about time to move forward” with introduction of cameras in court.


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  • November 5, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    The LDR scheme has been a catastrophic failure in our region, with the newspapers they’ve been seconded to simply sending the LDRs to all the big, important meetings they would have ordinarily sent a staffer to – rather than using them for their actual purpose, which is covering the stuff that resource issues mean *do not* already get covered. The positions would have been infinitely more useful if they were court-based, rather than ‘local democracy’ based.

    I also agree about cameras – and audio recording – in court. The current rules as nonsensical. How is publishing a written transcript okay, but taking an audio recording of the exact same testimony a problem? It’s the same testimony. I can even take a shorthand note, then recreate the testimony as an audio file and publish that – but I can’t just publish the actual audio. It’s stupidity.

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  • November 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    There has to be a balance between the principles of open justice and the ability of witnesses to give their best possible evidence. I expect giving evidence at a trial is a fairly terrifying experience for most people; imagine adding live TV cameras to that equation. Audio recording would be less problematic.

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