Not everybody wants to be famous for 24 hours. But if you are over 17 years of age and accused of an offence, you may well find yourself in the newspapers or online. These days, press reporting via social media can happen very quickly and it is often one of the things not thought about by those facing criminal proceedings.
There are some restrictions though. Anyone aged 17 or under will generally first appear in the Youth Court. There are strict rules that prevent the publication of the name, address, school or any other matter likely to identify a person under 18 who is a victim, witness or defendant in a youth court. This restriction can be lifted in certain circumstances, usually only for very serious offences; we can advise you and oppose any such application on your behalf if appropriate. If a youth appears in an adult court the prosecutor will apply for an order to prevent the naming of a youth. In civil proceedings, such as for an anti-social behaviour injunction, reporting restrictions do not apply.
There is an automatic reporting restriction that prevents the identification of any teacher who is alleged by a pupil at the same school to have committed a criminal offence against the pupil. This restriction ends when the teacher is charged or summonsed to court and can be varied or lifted.
Victims of sexual and a limited number of other offences have lifetime anonymity.
Reports of certain hearings at court may only include the name of the defendant and the offences he faces. This includes allocation and sending hearings in the Magistrates’ Court, preparatory and pre-trial hearings in the Crown Court. Once a trial is underway, you can expect to see reports of the entire proceedings, unless a Judge orders otherwise.
Discretionary reporting restrictions
Although an application may be made to restrict reporting of a defendant’s name any discretion has to be considered with care, such restrictions are not common.
An example of where an application may be appropriate is for a defendant who is in the witness protection programme (used recently in relation to John Venables, the killer of James Bulger).
For proceedings that are not in the youth court, there is a discretion to impose reporting restrictions in respect of a victim, witness or defendant under the age of 18. The court would need to be satisfied that the welfare of the child outweighed the strong public interest in open justice. There is a similar discretion for adult witnesses if their evidence would suffer if they were named as a witness.
Will the press be in Court?
Members of the press can sit in on hearings in any court, including the youth court, unless they are specifically excluded, but this would only be in rare and particular circumstances.
The general principle is that justice should be open and administered in public. Even if the press is not present, this does not mean that your case will not be reported.
Local reporters sell stories to other newspapers, so do not assume that just because you appear before a court away from where you live, your own local press will not be aware of it.
How we can assist
The law in respect of reporting restrictions is complicated, and breach of a restriction is a criminal offence for individuals as well as members of the press. This article is intended to give only a very brief overview of the issues involved.
Press reporting is one of the issues that you need to consider early on in the criminal process, particularly if your case is likely to attract publicity.
You will need to consider the effect that the proceedings may have on others, particularly children, and how you might deal with that.
If you have any concerns or simply to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact John Howey on 02073881658 or firstname.lastname@example.orgRead More
Yesterday’s news included the all too familiar reports of a young man being sentenced for a knife murder. Whilst the victim is named and pictured, the reports state that the defendant ‘cannot be named for legal reasons’, without setting out what those legal reasons are. It seems that an application was made in court to name the defendant, but this was refused.
What are these legal reasons?
The general principle is that proceedings should be held in public, the evidence should be heard in public and the media should be allowed to report the proceedings. There are however, a number of exceptions to that principle. There have been recent cases of evidence being heard behind closed doors for reasons of national security; Victims of sexual offences are given life-long anonymity, unless they are later subject to criminal proceedings in relation to the alleged offence (for example Jemma Beale, who was convicted of perjury and perverting the course of justice for making false allegations); Pre-trial rulings relating to the admissibility of evidence or points of law, an unsuccessful application to dismiss at the end of the prosecution case, anything that might identify a child or young person involved in youth court proceedings (with limited exceptions) are all subject to automatic reporting restrictions.
When the defendant is a minor
In relation to under 18s in the Crown Court, S45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which came into force in April 2015, allows the criminal court to prevent the publication of anything that would identify that young person as a defendant, until that person reaches 18. The court must have regard to the defendant’s welfare and be satisfied that the welfare of the young person outweighs the public interest in open justice. The court can dispense with the restriction at the end of the case if ‘their effect is to impose a substantial and unreasonable restriction on the reporting of the proceedings, and it is in the public interest to remove or relax that restriction’. Once the young person reaches the age of 18, the restrictions cease to apply.
In the case reported yesterday, the Judge refused to allow the defendant to be named, because ‘nothing is added of public import beyond what is already known.’ The facts of the case, and the defendants previous convictions are now a matter of public record, so it is difficult to see how the public not knowing his name is likely to amount to an unreasonable restriction on the reporting of the case.
We can help
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch with. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email email@example.com. Let us help.Read More