If you’re keen to slapped with a crippling fine, gain unemployment of go to prison, bungling a court report is a great way to achieve one or all of the above. English courts have a multitude of rules which can be broken with ease. Outlined below are some of the best methods used by journalists seeking to end their careers.
This might be summed up as not doing what the judge tells you to do. But this is really an oversimplification; because it also includes doing things the judge tells you not to do. The judge obviously wants the trial to run smoothly and fairly for everyone, and so anything that could disrupt the process is likely to be contemptuous. Anyone involved in the trial is subject to this; a spectator could be held in contempt for shouting, using a recording device or winking at someone. Jurors have been held in contempt for texting or speaking to the press about conversations which took place in the jury room, and a defendant who chooses to be somewhere that’s not in court will also probably be found to be in contempt. But while this is not a special rule for journalists; a journalist is ideally placed to mess things up for everyone and get themselves into an enormous amount of trouble.
There are often reporting restrictions on trials. A common one is Section 39 , which prohibits the identification of children. This isn’t always just a case of saying the child’s name though- if you identify an abuser of a child as one of the victim’s relatives, it would be easy for someone to work out who the victim was. Paedophiles may spared further shame because the press can’t say their victim was their son or niece etc. Families of victims are also not interviewed for this reason.
You will also find yourself in hot water if you publish something that could be seen to prejudice a jury, such as a defendant’s criminal history. If their lawyers spot anything like this they will immediately tell the judge that their client has no chance of a fair trial, the case could collapse, and the hapless journalist will be very quickly become poorer.
Here is a link for a list of common and automatic reporting restrictions:
By the way, all this applies long before anyone walks into a courtroom. Don’t forget the case is active as soon as anyone is arrested, or a warrant for arrest is issued.
If you want to get into trouble, a good thing to do is to not know the difference between crimes. These things are quite specific, and often mixed up in everyday conversation. For example, if a couple of people are found guilty of burglary, you might go all tabloid and say “The robbers made off with £10,000 of DOG FOOD and MITTENS”. You might say that. But someone would come along and tell you that they didn’t threaten anyone, so it wasn’t robbery. Then they would take your money away.
Some other ways to get sacked and ruin lives: You can only film outside the court building, you can’t even film through the doors. Courts often have land outside that you cannot film on either, but you can film this area from outside the boundary.
When filming this area, you can also film people involved in the trial such as lawyers and defendants, but filming some people may break a reporting restriction. Finally, if you’re showing these pictures whilst talking about crimes and criminals anda passer-by just happens to wander into frame when you said “these fraudsters”.-that’s juxtaposition libel.
If you want to get into trouble, a good thing to do is to not know the difference between crimes. These things are quite specific, and often mixed up in everyday conversation. For example, if a couple of people are found guilty of burglary, you might go all tabloid and say “The robbers made off with £10,000 of DOG FOOD and MITTENS”. You might say that. But robbery and burglary are different; robbery involves some sort of threat or violence, so stating that the burglars are robbers is defamatory. Then they would take your money away.