Law recap: Reporting from Court

The rules of the way we can report through each of the stages of case change. 

Currently (week beginning 20/01/14) there have been two court cases that have been particularly interesting in terms of knowing what we can and can't report. 

The case of Michael Kular began last week.. A case that begun as a missing person's report soon followed to be a murder trial. The little boy was reported missing. The police then found Michael's body days after the report and following this his mother has been charged in connection to his murder. 
A private hearing took place and the next one will be private too. 
The Mail On Sunday published an article online about the mother's lifestyle with a headline "Self confessed social butterfly"-This is prejudicial. It's not how you should describe someone before they go on trial. The editor who decided to publish this article would of probably of said 'this is sailing close to the winds' but it's during the fade factor. By the time the case starts people would of forgotten it. 

The change of reporting at different stages of the case: 
A missing persons plea from the police- This report included facts about the missing boy, times and descriptions of what he was wearing. We are then given a emotional and colourful view about the case hearing that the mother 'is distraught.' 

When the boys body was found the mother was then charged. The language changes here. We can no longer report the details or give it any emotion. The only fact we know is that he was found in a woodland. 

The court appearance is then in private. The only colour you can add to the report is local reaction and the police tape. 'it's really sad' All just filter and atmosphere not the details that people really want to know about. 

After an arrest the case becomes legally active. The risks that now face us are:

  • Prejudice
  • Contempt

The former chief executive of the Liberal Democrats Lord Rennard has hit our news when the several sexual harassment allegations were made by his former colleagues. Although no charges have been 
made agaisnt him he did have to leave his political party. 
This is no longer a criminal case because the party's internal investigation, led by senior barrister Alistair Webster QC, concluded the claims against Lord Rennard by four women could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
(Presumption of innocence outlines the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty and beyond reasonable doubt. Or in the magistrates court 'on the balance of probability.')
Lord Rennard could seek civil action against the liberal democrats and this would become a civil case. The women could also seek damages at civil court. So this will be a case to watch. 

Detention without charge
  • Police have 24hrs to question
  • Senior officer can extent by 12hr
  • Magistrates can extend by 36hr
  • Cannot exceed 96 hrs
  • Terror suspect limit - 28 days

Pre-trial reports can include:
  • Names of defendants, ages, addresses, occupations
  • Charges faced or a close summary
  • Names of court and magistrates’ names
  • Names of solicitors or barristers present
  • Date and place to where case is adjourned
  • Any arrangements as to bail
  • Whether legal aid was granted

Categories of offence
  • Indictable offence only: possible sentence of 5 years +
  • Either-way: can go to Crown Court or Magistrates

Magistrates powers
  • 6 months jail - fines up to £5,000
  • Suspended sentences
  • Conditional discharge
  • Community orders, Binding over
Key stages of trial
  • Prosecution opening
  • Key prosecution witnesses
  • Defense opening
  • Key defence witness
  • Judges summing up
  • Jury sent out, deliberation and verdict
Court reporting rules
  • Fair
  • Accurate
  • Contemporaneous (Fast - publishing it on the first opportunity)
  • No recording
  • Can now tweet live from court

Children and Young People
  • You are legally juvenile until 18

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