The Independent Press Standard's Organisation (IPSO) has published new guidance to assist editors and journalists on how the Editors' Code applies to court reporting.(1) It includes summaries of case studies of relevant decisions by IPSO's complaints committee. The guidance is not intended to limit or restrict editorial decision-making but may inform that decision-making.
Key points from the guidance include the following:
- It is a fundamental principle of open justice that court proceedings can be reported on by the media in an open and transparent way.
- Several clauses in the Editors' Code are relevant to court reporting, including:
- Accuracy (clause 1);
- Harassment (clause 3);
- Children in sex cases (clause 7);
- Reporting of crime (clause 9);
- Victims of sexual assault (clause 11);
- Witness payments in criminal trials (clause 15); and
- Payments to criminals (clause 16).
- Journalists have an obligation to ensure that a report of what was heard in court is accurate and not misleading.
- Reports of legal proceedings must be fair and accurate, and any reporting restrictions or statutory prohibitions on reporting must be complied with.
- Any information from other sources must be clearly distinguished in an article from that which was heard in court.
- All victims of sexual offences, including children, and victims of female genital mutilation are granted anonymity for life from the moment they make an allegation.
- Taking contemporaneous notes during court proceedings is an important way to demonstrate that care has been taken over the accuracy of any subsequent court report.
- If the opening of a trial is reported, it is good practice to report the conclusion.
For further information on this topic please contact Elizabeth Wiggin at Wiggin by telephone (+44 20 7612 9612) or email ([email protected]). The Wiggin website can be accessed at www.wiggin.co.uk.
(1) To read a blog post on IPSO's website about the importance of covering the courts, click here.