3 min read

Media Law lecture -- Contempt of Court Pt. 2

Answers from last week:
  1. Jigsaw identification -- individual identifiable even though name not explicitly given, i.e., through multiple pieces of info
  2. Court sketches have to be done outside the court from memory
  3. CPS media protocol is a protocol agreed between media organizations and crown prosecution service detailing how material (i.e., CCTV footage) used in court can be used in the media.
  • If shown to the jury in open court, material then given to the media.
  1. § 8, Contempt of Court Act 1981 -- offense to speak to or solicit info from a juror regarding jury deliberations.
  2. 12 jurors in criminal trial; 11-1 or 10-2 for majority verdict after period of at least 2 hours, unanimous decision preferred.
Questions for next week:
  1. What is Sec. 39 of Children and Young Persons Act?
  2. What is PACE, and what does it say about disclosure of journalist material to police?
  3. What is the meaning of the word "redaction"?
  4. In the broadcast media, what is the watershed?
  5. What is a Newton hearing?

Where in class?

Modules 1-3 are finished. First 14 chapters of textbook, plus human rights act, contempt of court act, PCC code of practice, Ofcom Broadcast code

What type of information can lead to contempt proceedings?

  • Photographs of defendant when ID is an issue (Child abduction cases; identification parades; etc.)
  • Police press office will often make it known when identification is an issue.
  • Barrister will argue witness was predisposed by what was published; can dramatically mess up a case.
  • Previous convictions
  • Bad character
  • Attorney General v. Associated Newspapers LTD and News Group Newspapers Ltd (2011)
  • Even though only online, still contempt the court -- even despite jury being told not to go online and search for details.
  • Jury being told not to look for details applies specifically to jury going sleuthing, not all online news browsing.
  • Vilification of the defendant
  • Jeffries case re: Joanna Yates -- painted negative picture; resulted in libel damages and contempt prosecutions for Mirror Group and Sun. Would have discouraged witness to support Jeffries.
  • Between the bad character and Jeffries case, "Contempt is now alive and kicking as a course of law"
  • Detailed account of the evidence against the defendant
  • Talking about undisputed facts is okay, however, not giving detailed examinations of evidence against defendant
  • Details of confessions
  • At trial, the confession itself may be open to debate. Could prejudice jury if a newspaper details facts of confession in the meantime.
  • Comment on the evidence
  • Only what's said in court without giving judgement
  • Predictions on the verdict
  • Reconstructions
  • "Crimewatch" et al do reconstructions before arrests have been made, is okay.

To avoid:

  • Comment on the evidence/credibility of witnesses
  • Adding extrinsic material/information/images that are not part of the evidence
  • Broad reconstructions of contested evidence
  • Predictions on witnesses/the outcome of the trial
  • Legal argument in absence of jury
  • Disclosable at end of trial but not while jury is in situ.
  • "Voir dire" legal argument during course of the trial.
  • Guilty pleas not known to the jury
  • Defendants might plea guilty in order to get lower sentence
  • Site visits showing jurors or identifying jurors.
  • Jury visited murder site in Joanna Yates case; identifying jurors through these is contempt

What you should do:

  • Use stock phrases to make clear these are only allegations and not proven fact
  • Use quotes where possible

Incidental risk

  • §5 Contempt of Court Act 1981
  • Discussion of matters of public interest in good faith where risk is incidental
  • Attorney General v. English (1983)
  • Daily Mail discussed pro-life candidate during case of doctor who had killed a Downs Syndrome child.
  • Just because a trial is taking place in relation to a certain subject doesn't mean discussion of that subject is completely shut down.

Preliminary hearings

  • Magistrates Court §8 Magistrates Courts Act 1980 -- What can be reported
  • Name of court, magistrates, lawyers
  • Names/address defendant, witnesses
  • Decision whether to commit for trial
  • Whether Legal Aid granted
  • Whether reporting restrictions lifted
  • Arrangements as to bail, including conditions such as a condition of residence at a certain address but not reasons for refusal for bail — such as the defendant's previous convictions or likelihood of re-offending
  • Preliminary hearings in the Crown Court.

Victims of sexual offences

  • Most victims gain automatic anonymity (absolute unless waived)
  • Sexual Offences Amendment Act 1976 and 1992
  • Must remain anonymous
  • What is anonymous?
  • Would they be recognized by own mother? If so, then not anonymous.
  • Jigsaw identification
  • Must be prevented; identification cannot be from random bits of info
  • Pixellation/voice distortion/background
  • Can be personal prosecuted
  • Waiving anonymity must be in writing
  • Takes place even after proceedings, ad infinitum, and even post mortem.

Filming at court

  • Must be outside precincts of court
  • Cannot broadcast proceedings
  • Criminal Justice Act 1925
  • The Supreme Court
  • Plans by the Ministry of Justice to potentially allow filming in Appeals Court and Supreme Court (?) -- not finalized
  • Sketches
  • Cannot sketch in court
  • Must be from memory, outside of court
  • Tape recordings §9 Contempt of Court Act 1981
  • Tweeting in court: allowed if judge lets it (go through Clerk of the Court); normal contempt of court rules apply.