Court reporting: What to expect part two…
Generally, unless editors can prove there is a public interest in doing so, newspapers are not allowed to print:
- Information that might identify a victim of sexual assault;
- Information that identifies a friend or relative of a criminal, who is not at all relevant to the court case
- Information that is protected by reporting restrictions or might be in contempt of court.
Victims of sexual assault
The Code bans editors from publishing information that might identify a victim of sexual assault. Journalists must not identify these people or publish information that might lead to them being identified. This might include publishing details such as their age, occupation, address, or details of the alleged crime (like the relationship between the defendant and the victim). People who are victims of other crimes are not offered this protection.
Friends or relatives of criminals
Newspapers are not generally allowed to name a relative or a friend of a person convicted of a crime if they are not relevant to the case. However, if there is a public interest in naming them, journalists are allowed to do this. If someone is named in court or goes to court to support a defendant, journalists are normally allowed to report this.
Reporting restrictions and contempt of court
Sometimes, there might be a legal reporting restriction on a court case. This means that certain information heard in court cannot be reported. A restriction may be automatic under law or a judge might choose to make a restriction. Automatic restrictions normally relate to reporting sexual offenses or court cases in youth courts.
There are also rules about what a newspaper (or any member of the public) can publish which might be in contempt of court. Once somebody has been arrested or civil proceedings have started, they are protected by law from the publication of information which might mean that their trial cannot take place fairly. If you think a newspaper printed information that had been restricted or is in contempt of court, you should get legal advice or speak to court officials. We are not able to help with these issues.
What should I do if I am approached by a journalist?
It is normal for journalists to want to speak to someone who they are writing a story about. Journalists do this to make sure that what they are publishing is accurate. Many people want to speak about their experience of crime and are happy to be interviewed.
What can I do if I want an article to be removed from a newspaper’s website?
If an article is written about a court case, some people involved may want it to be removed from a website. We receive a lot of inquiries about this. However, we are not generally able to assist with such inquiries. If you want an article to be removed, you should contact the newspaper directly. An editor of a newspaper might refuse to remove an article, even if it is old. This is because many newspapers feel it is important to have an accessible archive of all the stories that they have published.
You should not be surprised if a newspaper refuses to remove an article about you. If your convictions have been ‘spent’, you may have legal rights to have links to articles about these convictions to be removed from search engines. If you make a formal request to an internet search engine directly, they may remove these articles from search results. However, these articles will still be available on newspapers’ websites. If you are concerned about the information which appears on search engines, you should get advice from the search engines themselves, or from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). ICO handles complaints about breaches of the Data Protection Act.