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Country’s top judge shares ‘deep regret’ at lack of court reporting

Lord Burnett Chief JusticeThe head of the judiciary has shared his “deep regret” about the decline of court reporting in an interview with a regional news site.

Lord Burnett of Maldon, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, says he is concerned the ubiquity of court reporters across the country “is no longer what it was”.

Lord Burnett, pictured, is President of the Courts of England and Wales, and as such is responsible for presenting the views of the judiciary to MPs and the government.

He made the remarks to Plymouth Live crime reporter Carl Eve after delivering a lecture in Plymouth.

Noting Carl and his colleagues at the site and its sister daily the Plymouth Herald were part of a “rare breed” who still regularly attend court, Lord Burnett said: “I’ve always thought that the involvement and presence of journalists in our courts is of great importance for a number of different reasons.

“First of all journalists are the eyes and ears of the public and justice is done in this country in open court in public.

“The second reason is having journalists in court and having interested members of the public in court keeps everybody up to mark. It improves the quality of what’s done in court, it improves the quality of the lawyers’ involvement and in my view it also improves what the judges do.

“I think it’s a matter of deep regret that the ubiquity of court reporters across the country is no longer what it was.

“Of course I understand entirely the changing economics of local newspapers in particular and the impact of social media and the way in which people consume their news, but for me I would like to see more reporters in our courts rather than fewer and as we look forward a few years, perhaps a decade, the government and we need to think about ways in which through the use of new technology we can make it possible for people occasionally to be able to see what’s going on in our courts even if they are not physically there.”

Lord Burnett went on to note there were now facilities for recording and live-streaming in civil and criminal courts of appeal.

He added: “I don’t think we’re going to get there for the lower courts – the costs involved would be unimaginable – so to the Supreme Court. The technology is moving on so fast that I suspect the landscape reporters have been used to in their professional life and I’ve been used to in my professional life will just look different within not very many years.

“Where I think we will end up having to go is settling down with all of the interested media organisations to see how collectively we might be able to improve the situation.”

Plymouth Live editor Edd Moore told HTFP: “Court reporting is a cornerstone of open justice and we’re proud to provide comprehensive daily coverage of Plymouth’s courts.

“There is a clear appetite from our readers for court and crime stories and while court reporting has changed over the years to incorporate new formats of storytelling and new platforms on which to tell the stories, the principle remains the same. We are keen to explore ways of being able to publish more from courts and tribunals in the future.”

Earlier this month the BBC announced its intention to expand the local democracy reporting scheme to include courts and NHS Trusts.

The BBC says the expansion will only go ahead after consultation with the news industry and when sufficient external funding has been found, with recruitment of a new cohort of local democracy reporters being its first priority.


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  • November 20, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    The usual level of court reporting in my local paper is a list provided by the court (hardly a balanced report). Verdict: Guilty of starving newspapers of adequate staff. Sentence: Eventual extinction of loal newspapers that are not truly local.

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