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Journalist claims court staff trying to intimidate her because she is ‘young and female’

Katie RidleyA regional journalist has claimed court staff are trying to intimidate her to stop reporting on cases because she is “young and female”.

Hunts Post reporter Katie Ridley has been told twice recently by ushers not to use her phone to tweet while covering hearings at Peterborough Crown Court.

UK journalists have been able to live tweet court proceedings without making applications to the judge since 2011, but Katie’s right to do so was disputed by the court clerk during a hearing yesterday.

However, the sitting judge sided with Katie on the matter, prompting her and her editor Daniel Mansfield to call on Twitter for HM Courts and Tribunals Service to “sort this out”.

HMCTS issued new guidance for court staff in October aimed at helping them to assist journalists covering hearings, but Katie told HTFP the repeated challenges to her rights were “becoming frustrating”.

Katie, pictured, said: “I was at a case where a defendant pleaded not guilty to three different counts of armed robbery. We were asked to leave the room when they were doing an application for bail, which never normally happens in courts that I have sat in.

“When I left, the usher came over to me and said the direction from the clerk had been that when I returned to the court room I should turn my phone off.

“This has happened to me once before, so I went on to explain how around seven years ago reporters were given the right to tweet and use their phones from court. This was disputed by the clerk, and after about half an hour he came out and said that the judge had agreed with me, and that I was right.”

Katie added: “It’s becoming frustrating now that journalists seem to get treated so differently, and that a lot of court staff still do not understand journalists’ rights.

“I sometimes feel that because I am young, and that I am female, that staff try and intimidate me and stop me from reporting in an open court.”

Both Katie and Daniel posted about her experience on Twitter yesterday in tweets addressed to HMCTS.

She also won the support of Leeds Trinity University media law and public affairs lecturer Nigel Green, who posted: “This kind of idiocy is so widespread. [HMCTS] need to get a grip.”

Speaking to HTFP, Katie added: “Dealing with the situation can sometimes be stressful. I think as long as you know the law, and what you are allowed to do, and then you can fight for your right to report.

“I do worry that because a lot of newspapers don’t send their reporters to court, that court staff may not be used to journalists attending.

“That’s why I still think that it is important for reporters to attend court to make sure that we can hold people to account.”

HTFP has approached HMCTS for a comment.


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  • February 27, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    It isn’t because you’re female and young, Katie. I have had many similar clashes with court officials over the years – and I’m male and old. Some of these pen-pushers are just power-crazed and others just unpleasant. We must all keep up the fight to keep them in their proper place.

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  • February 27, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    It won’t be *only* because she’s young and female, but I’m sure they probably feel freer to do so because of it – and all power to her for standing her ground.

    I remember once turning to cover a routine assault case at a magistrates’ court which clearly hadn’t had a journalist visit for some time.

    They initially refused to let me sit on the press bench as my press card was being renewed and I didn’t have one to show.

    I then said I would sit in the public gallery and was told “this is a court – you can’t just turn up and watch if you don’t have a connection to the case”.

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  • February 27, 2019 at 12:32 pm

    This type of story annoys me. Someone made an error, they were informed of their error and normal service resumed. Sorry, but it’s just not a story unless the error wasn’t rectified.

    I see newspapers doing this all the time. Things like ‘Mum-of-four billed £5,000 for online grocery shop’ then you read the story to find that the error was spotted, immediately sorted and it turns out that she got a £50 voucher as an apology. It would only be a story if they refused to do anything about it or took too long and it caused her mortgage payment to bounce.

    Yes, it’s clear that the court in question needs to ensure their clerks are better informed but people make mistakes! We’re too quick to accuse the courts of conspiracy and cover-ups and, bizarrely in this case, ageism and sexism.

    Anyway, at least a couple of tweets to HM Courts and Tribunals Service will fix it! If only there was a way to, I don’t know, have a conversation with the court or something…

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  • February 27, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Oliver, you wrote: “Sorry, but it’s just not a story unless the error wasn’t rectified.”
    Sorry Oliver but your approach is wrong. It is still a story whether it was or was not rectified.
    HTFP was highlighting a problem that seems to be more prevalent these days.
    These court officials get away with it because they think they can intimidate young reporters these days. Part of the problem is that courts are not attended by reporters in the same way they were during my 50 years on newspapers. During that time I was never turned away but it now seems to be happening with increasing frequency. This was a matter where the editor or news editor should have intervened and pursued the matter with the senior court officials.
    I suspect that part of the problem was that she was tweeting – and officials just don’t like that kind of modern behaviour.
    It is the same with councils: they think they can/should bar the Press when a particular matter comes up. Sometimes it may be justified but in the majority of cases it is not.

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  • February 28, 2019 at 10:21 am

    sorry, well done for standing up to officialdom but the young and female bit just doesn’t fit. It is down to ignorance of court officials or being pure bloody minded. As has been pointed out it happens frequently to much older make hacks. Some court staff (but by no means all) simply don’t like journalists of any gender or age.

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  • February 28, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    wordsmith, the day when journalists stop treading that fine line between a great story and something libellous, I will agree with you… but I hope that day never comes. People from all walks of life try to exert influence over the behaviour of others where they can, including journalists. As long as you’re well prepared, as they were in this case, it’s not a problem.

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  • February 28, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    Oliver – it was still a story whatever the outcome. Not a great story but still a story.

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  • February 28, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    wordsmith, sorry, but I think you are wrong. I wonder if HMCTS have ‘issued fresh guidance’ to their entire staff on the back of this yet? I wonder if it’ll ever happen again?

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