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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Crime - Court Reporting

Court reporting can be a great way to get good stories, and is a perfect example of potential great journalism. However, there are guidelines that you need to follow strictly, to avoid breaking any laws.

Prejudice and contempt are two big dangers when court reporting. You need to be careful of publishing facts or allegations that could lead to unfairness at a later stage in a court case. You also need to be careful of contested and uncontested facts. You should only publish uncontested facts, these are facts that can't be argued(usually meaning they've been stated in court by the judge etc...) These facts can't be argued as untrue.

Their certain points that you should (and in some cases 'can') mention when covering a court story. 
Name of the defendant
Their age
Name of the court
What they've been charged with(or close summary of the charges)
Dare and place of next hearing.

You can say about bail applications, but can't report the argument about it in court. You can only say if it's been granted or not. 

Privilege is a form of protection for journalists and can come from court and the House of Commons. You can usually report defamatory statements if they have been said in the House of Commons.
To keep the privilege from court, you need to be fast, fair and accurate in your reporting.

Privilege allows us as journalists top write or broadcast material which may be defamatory, or untrue, or even both at the same time. it gives us protection from being sued.

Their are 2 types of privilege - Absolute and qualified.

Qualified privilege
Reports need to be Fast, Accurate and Fair.
Without malice
On a matter of public concern (public interest)
- Public forums/meetings are covered by qualified privilege. They are not absolute, as you need to have the other side of the story to make it fair and keep the protection.
Press conferences are public meetings(Lords 2000). Written handouts are covered, and risks of live broadcasting (eg- trying to name someone etc...) should be considered.

Two levels of Qualified Privilege
1 - With or 'subject to'
Explanation or contradiction. Eg - local council committees, employment tribunals.
2 - Without
Explanation or contradiction.


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