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Court staff tell journalist to ‘Google it’ after refusing to give judge’s name

Robert BattyA journalist was urged to search online for a judge’s first name by court staff who refused to tell him it themselves.

Leicester Mercury and Leicestershire Live politics correspondent Dan Martin was told to use Google after a member of staff at Leicester County Court declined to give him the information when he requested it.

He was in court on Tuesday to cover an injunction hearing against “aggressive beggar” Robert Batty, pictured, who arrived at the venue carrying a picture frame.

Dan was told by one member of court staff the case was being heard by “Judge Headley” when he approached them after the hearing, at which the injunction was imposed banning Batty from parts of Leicester city centre, but was knocked back when he asked for the judge’s first name.

The exchange prompted him to share his frustration on Twitter, and post a screenshot of the recently updated guidance which offers advice to HM Courts and Tribunals Service staff on dealing with journalists.

The guidance states the media are “entitled to the full name of judges and magistrates (and their legal adviser) in all jurisdictions”.

Thankfully a second member of staff told Dan the judge was called “Richard”.

Dan told HTFP: “I wouldn’t say it was an argument, it was all pretty-even tempered, but it was one of those niggly little exchanges colleagues have with court staff all too often when trying to get basic information about cases.

“I actually thought he was joking when he said I should use Google. He’d already given me half the answer I wanted. I don’t know if it was stubbornness or just that he didn’t know reporters are entitled to the judge’s full name.

“When I asked why a couldn’t have the judge’s first name his response was basically ‘I’m not going to tell you and that’s the end of it.’”

“I appreciate they’re busy and they probably don’t see dealing with the press as a priority but the quickest way to get a reporter out of the door and avoid time-consuming and frustrating discussions like the one we had is to know the guidelines.”

Dan had previously had difficulties getting information about the injunction from the county court.

He had to get a Ministry of Justice press officer to contact court managers to get them to disclose details of the case, particularly the name of the respondent.

Mercury editor George Oliver said: “Updated HMCTS media guidance is coming into force next month as to how its staff should best work alongside the media.

“For years the News Media Association has lobbied about application of policies relating to open access to courts and judicial information – here’s another example of needless obstruction for its file.”

5 comments

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  • March 12, 2020 at 12:09 pm
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    I’ve found over the years that court ushers are far too friendly with their ‘regulars’ and err towards being more supportive to offenders than open court reporting. Not always though – one usher used to send them out of a side door to avoid getting snatched, but I’d be waiting on the other side of the yard out of sight.

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  • March 12, 2020 at 2:22 pm
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    Had this problem 20 years ago. A lot of court officials are 1. Ignorant 2. Obstructive. I found on occasions that included the CPS solicitors, who refused to help with basics such as name spellings. I got the impression they preferred to have proceedings behind closed doors. Mind you, some of the sloppy court reporting doesn’t help. I have seen unqualified, unsupervised trainees covering court too many times.

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  • March 12, 2020 at 4:17 pm
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    I was at an inquest once where a psychiatrist with a Greek name was present. I phoned her clinic and they wouldn’t tell me how to spell it – even though I knew it and could pronounce it – due to ‘data protection’. The actually SPELLING of her name was in breach of data protection, apparently. So I just called her Dr Zeus.

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  • March 13, 2020 at 11:53 am
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    It looks like this ‘gentleman’ who feels he’s being framed is ‘Batty’ by name and ‘Batty’ by nature.

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  • March 13, 2020 at 4:28 pm
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    So his name is Judge Dick Headley?
    Perhaps he thought the reporter was taking the Mick.

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