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Can a Case Be Heard Without a Newspaper Reporter Present?

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 7 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Magistrates’ Court Criminal Case Hearing

Q.

Could you please advise me if I have the right to have my court case (at magistrates' court) heard in private without a newspaper reporter?

(L.R, 26 April 2009)

A.

It has long been a central principle of law in the UK that justice should not only be done, but that justice should be “seen to be done”. This concept is also sometime known as open justice. One of the ways that this is achieved is by holding court hearings in public.

According to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right to a “fair and public hearing”. Therefore trials should be held in such a way that the public has access to them. The starting point for most types of criminal and civil hearings is that they should be open to the public. However, the right contained in Article 6 is not absolute and there are a number of situations where other considerations take precedence to a public hearing.

There are many types of hearings where the public or reporters are routinely prevented from attending – these include cases which deal with issues of national security or which involve children. The public could be excluded from a whole trial or just from part of it, depending on the particular circumstances. Theoretically, the public or press could be excluded if their presence could be damaging for the private lives of anyone involved in the hearing or if it would have a detrimental effect on public order or morals.

Most magistrates’ court cases are held in public. Even in the youth courts, where most members of the public are excluded from hearings, a news reporter will usually be able to attend. Indeed cases and judgments may usually still be reported even if the public were not allowed to attend the hearing, although sometimes the names of participants are withheld. However, the magistrates do have the power to order either that the hearing should take place in private or that reporting restrictions relate to that hearing.

Generally speaking, in practice, news reporters would only be present at a hearing if it was in some way newsworthy – the vast majority of magistrates’ court hearings take place in the absence of any journalists. I assume, therefore, that you have a reason to believe that your case is of interest to the media.

To depart from the fundamental principles of public hearings and open justice, the magistrates would have to be persuaded that the hearing had to be held in private for the proper administration of justice. As mentioned above, this could apply in cases involving children. It is difficult to give a definite answer to your question without knowing the details of your particular circumstances. However, whilst in principle it may be possible for the public to be excluded from your hearing, there is probably no right to have your hearing held in private.

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[Add a Comment]
David - Your Question:
Hi.I was woken up to police knocking on my door telling me I had been downloading and sharing indecent images of children (5 videos). I admitted guilt and I'm now waiting to hear about a second interview with the police and the magistrates court. I am very remorseful and I've started counselling. I have a history of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and I'm a victim of physical and sexual abuse myself.If my name gets out I have no reason to live as my career is the only thing I've got going for me. Would my background help me in applying for a closed hearing in the court?

Our Response:
We really don't know, this is something you should ask your legal representative/the courts about.
AboutHumanRights - 8-Dec-17 @ 3:02 PM
Hi. I was woken up to police knocking on my door telling me I had been downloading and sharing indecent images of children (5 videos). I admitted guilt and I'm now waiting to hear about a second interview with the police and the magistrates court. I am very remorseful and I've started counselling. I have a history of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and I'm a victim of physical and sexual abuse myself. If my name gets out I have no reason to live as my career is the only thing I've got going for me. Would my background help me in applying for a closed hearing in the court?
David - 7-Dec-17 @ 4:40 PM
Hi Can the press print a story on me even if I'm found not guilty
Shaz - 5-Oct-17 @ 8:14 PM
Hi, I'm due in court in a few weeks for making (downloading) indecent images which I don't remember. The police refused to caution me because they said it has to be heard in court, even though the police know I'm very ill. Solicitor says there's no chance for anonymity even though it's my right to apply for anonymity. I feel I have exceptional circumstances as I'm very ill, suffering from longterm mental illness and suicidal thoughts. I'm also living with other vulnerable adults at their address. Their street isnt big and their security would be jeopardised as a result of reporting. What circumstances and illness would qualify for me for reporting restrictions to be put in place? Every solicitor I spoke to just shoots down straight away my request that they submit to the court my reasons for requesting anonymity.Is it because the solicitors aren't understanding what I'm telling them? I'm not trying to stop it from being put in the papers, Im just trying to protect the vulnerable adults I live with from being collateral damage, as the area isn't the nicest of areas in terms of locals attitudes and vandalism is a problem here. If I had my own place I wouldn't be as bothered. Any help and info would be great, thank you.
Jonny - 17-Jul-17 @ 10:30 PM
I was caught shoplifting two weeks ago ,I got an adult caution for the first thing and a charge for the second . The value of the items I stole are 18€ . My questions are will my adult caution be brought up in court ? I was comming off very strong medication for a mood disorder ( mental health) at the time and my head was all over the place . I have admitted the whole thing . My biggest worry is that my case will b in the local newspaper . I know l won't b able to deal with lt mentally . I have had suicide thoughts since this happened .Feel like I have let everyone down . Please help me . I can't deal with it anymore
Re - 9-Jul-17 @ 9:40 PM
Stevew - Your Question:
I was assaulted and the atracker has since been charged. There may be a trial but I don't want my name mentioned in the papers as having been assaulted. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? Thanks Steve

Our Response:
Ask your solicitor to request that reporting restrictions are put in place.
AboutHumanRights - 30-Jun-17 @ 12:52 PM
I was assaulted and the atracker has since been charged. There may be a trial but I don't want my name mentioned in the papers as having been assaulted. Is there anything I can do to prevent this? Thanks Steve
Stevew - 29-Jun-17 @ 6:15 PM
Xox- Your Question:
Hi I am in court for a drink driving charge very soon and getting very worried that it will hit the papers as many of these types of cases do, I am getting very worried as I have a restraining order on a ex partner that is currently wanted by the police for a recall back to prison and I no he reads the paper every day and could quite easily find out my address as the reporters put your name and address in there!! Ive only just moved here is this a good enough reason for it not to go in the paper as it is a legal reason? I'm worried sick , thanks

Our Response:
Ask your solicitor to mention this to the court before the case is to be heard.
AboutHumanRights - 26-Jun-17 @ 10:17 AM
Hi I am in court for a drink driving charge very soon and getting very worried that it will hit the papers as many of these types of cases do, I am getting very worried as I have a restraining order on a ex partner that is currently wanted by the police for a recall back to prison and I no he reads the paper every day and could quite easily find out my address as the reporters put your name and address in there!! Ive only just moved here is this a good enough reason for it not to go in the paper as it is a legal reason? I'm worried sick , thanks
Xox - 23-Jun-17 @ 3:10 AM
I've been arrested and served with summons to attend court next month...the offense shoplifting goods worth €45...this is my first time in court only my second arrest.First one being about 6yrs ago...am single on low income...2 sons one has Autism. Went through the worst divorce hardly a year ago...what am I looking at when I go to court...does the solicitor have the power to ask the press not to print my story? Am totally scared.It would be the end of me...pliz help
Sims - 20-Jun-17 @ 11:20 AM
Sadg - Your Question:
I was wondering about having a dui charge and having child in car do they post that with name in paper

Our Response:
It really depends on how the press decide to report it (if it's not discussed in court), that aspect will be ommitted from any reporting anyway.
AboutHumanRights - 4-May-17 @ 2:21 PM
I was wondering about having a dui charge and having child in car do they post that with name in paper
Sadg - 4-May-17 @ 1:35 AM
I am going to court for stealing my fist affence in 13 years would I receive a caution or will I be prosecuted. If so would it be published in the local newspaper
Tanz - 30-Apr-17 @ 9:46 PM
I have recently admitted downloading indecent images and awaiting charge, is there anything i or my solicitor can do stop journalists attending court as my son is autistic and i am worried for his and my familys well being if it is printed in the paper i have left my family but still in the same area
May - 20-Apr-17 @ 7:04 PM
E - Your Question:
At what stage can you usually expect a story to appear in a newspaper? A person I am referring to has already plead guilty in crown court to various child sexual offences (and more) but I have not seen anything yet in the local papers. This person is due to be sentenced at the beginning of May. When are reporters allowed to attend such hearings and publish such stories?

Our Response:
This depends on what the judge hearing the case has ordered. The case can sometimes be reported during the trial but usually once someone has been convicted and sentence is pending, a case will be reported upon if it's off sufficient interest. Sometimes journalists wil await sentencing and just publish the whole story once.
AboutHumanRights - 18-Apr-17 @ 10:24 AM
At what stage can you usually expect a story to appear in a newspaper? A person I am referring to has already plead guilty in crown court to various child sexual offences (and more) but I have not seen anything yet in the local papers. This person is due to be sentenced at the beginning of May. When are reporters allowed to attend such hearings and publish such stories?
E - 15-Apr-17 @ 11:28 AM
Ann - Your Question:
I am facing a trial for drink driving, although I wasn`t even caught on the road. After my first hearing my full name and address was online,not printed, thank God.I would like to ask the court to exclude journalist from my trial or just for restriction, not to use my full name and address as I can lose my job immediately, my house, my daughter.Not to mention, my daughter could be bullied at school and it would effect her mental well-being. Is it possible to avoid being in the local newspaper? My solicitor seems to be a bit weak about it.Thank you.

Our Response:
You can ask the court but it's very unlikely that reporting restrictions will be lifted unless it's in the public interests or personal safety.
AboutHumanRights - 31-Mar-17 @ 11:07 AM
I am facing a trial for drink driving, although I wasn`t even caught on the road. After my first hearing my full name and address was online,not printed, thank God. I would like to ask the court to exclude journalist from my trial or just for restriction, not to use my full name and address as I can lose my job immediately, my house, my daughter...Not to mention, my daughter could be bullied at school and it would effect her mental well-being. Is it possible to avoid being in the local newspaper? My solicitor seems to be a bit weak about it. Thank you.
Ann - 30-Mar-17 @ 6:31 AM
I am awaiting a court appearance having plead guilty to a serious offence. I currently work in Saudi Arabia and have been under the guidance of a doctor for a potentially serious spinal injury. The situation is further complicated because my employer will dismiss me should I take extended absence so I have tried to cope with painkillers etc. I got a medical certificate from the surgeon but it was not dated nor did it state "conscience and soul" - so the PF has issued a warrant for my arrest upon setting foot in the UK. I am trying to get the surgeon to write another more detailed report but Saudi Arabia would not recognise the term "conscience and soul" and frankly, I am not sure what that is supposed to prove either. I have not seen my family for seven months and I have made it clear (to my solicitor) that I am prepared to hand over my passport upon arrival in the UK. This is my first offence (although serious) and am not a career criminal nor am I part of an International crime syndicate so the PF's decision seems completely OTT, unnecessarily harsh and unreasonable. What can I do to try and get the warrant lifted? (My solicitor seems somewhat 'impotent' in these matters)
Blake6123 - 26-Mar-17 @ 8:55 AM
APG - Your Question:
I was found to be in possession of a class a substance yesterday. I voluntarily went for a police interview this morning and the policeman told me I would very likely just receive a caution. Could you tell me please would this be done in a courtroom and, more importantly, would it be likely to be in my local newspaper?

Our Response:
A caution can be issued by both the police and also the CPS (the latter, via the courts). It's unlikely that it would be reported in the local press, but willbe recorded and information can be passed on to prospective employers (in a DBS enclosure for example)
AboutHumanRights - 13-Mar-17 @ 12:48 PM
I was found to be in possession of a class a substance yesterday. I voluntarily went for a police interview this morning and the policeman told me I would very likely just receive a caution. Could you tell me please would this be done in a courtroom and, more importantly, would it be likely to be in my local newspaper?
APG - 10-Mar-17 @ 5:40 PM
It's day 2 of crown court trail and papers have already put name and feel like he is guilty already I thought a trail was for the jury to listen to the evidence but it's in paper and people committed nasty and un true things is this aloud before a trail has ended and not been found guilty?!
Lol - 7-Mar-17 @ 7:40 PM
Gee - Your Question:
A family member may be charged with a serious offence. I am the only other person in my small town with the same name, and if this is reported on it will affect me as well as my own children. Can this stopped from getting in the paper? If not, we will all have to move house, jobs and schools

Our Response:
Unfortunately, there's not much that can be done if someone simply has the same name as you. Undoubtedly, if he is charged and convicted, publications will display an image a long with the name and people will therefore realise it is not you.
AboutHumanRights - 1-Mar-17 @ 12:22 PM
A family member may be charged with a serious offence. I am the only other person in my small town with the same name, and if this is reported on it will affect me as well as my own children. Can this stopped from getting in the paper? If not, we will all have to move house, jobs and schools
Gee - 27-Feb-17 @ 5:13 PM
I've been charged with a caution but not been to court can it still go in the evening post?
Emma thomas - 14-Feb-17 @ 9:33 PM
Cheryl - Your Question:
My son who's 22 is up in court today for fraud how can I keep this out of the local papers

Our Response:
You can ask the courts to restrict reporting, but they will only do this if there is a good reason (risk/safety etc)
AboutHumanRights - 9-Feb-17 @ 1:51 PM
Gina g- Your Question:
Hi I am a witness in court for a domestic abuse assault that happened to me. I'm very worried about the paper printing my name and details as it will tear my family apart. Is there any way I can stop this?

Our Response:
Yes ask your solicitor to ask the courts to impose reporting restrictions for your safety.
AboutHumanRights - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:04 PM
My son who's 22 is up in court today for fraud how can I keep this out of the local papers
Cheryl - 8-Feb-17 @ 9:28 AM
Hi I am a witness in court for a domestic abuse assault that happened to me. I'm very worried about the paper printing my name and details as it will tear my family apart. Is there any way I can stop this?
Gina g - 7-Feb-17 @ 4:17 AM
I got 2 years off the road for driving new car 2 miles my cases was not fare I wasn't aloud speek judge didn't want to know. So I appeal it straight away. The following weekit was all printers all over the paper is thus allow as I'm still waiting on my appeal.
Wolverine - 29-Jan-17 @ 8:38 PM
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