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    Tuesday, 4 September 2007

    Catch-up (July): developments regarding court reporting

    July also saw a number of important events in the area of court reporting. First, and not surprisingly, the Court of Appeal quashed the permanent injunction imposed earlier this year on the reporting of details of documentation of White House meetings passed to an MP. The two men involved in leaking the information were jailed for breach of the Official Secrets Act in May. The challenge to the injunction had been brought by a group of newspapers - see here for the judgment itself (Times Newspapers Ltd & Others v R [2007] EWCA Crim 1925).

    Secondly, in an article in the Guardian, John Battle - head of compliance at ITN - commented on how the 21/7 terrorism trials evidenced an important shift in the televising of prosecutions and related evidence attendant on the agreement of the 2005 protocol on cooperation between the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the media (the aim of which is to see greater openness in the reporting of criminal proceedings through effective mutual cooperation). Appropriately, the footnote cites Battle's own role in establishing this protocol. The article highlighted the fact that video evidence seen by the jurors was also made available for broadcast on news programmes in a way that would not formerly have been the case. The new approach reflects the fact that members of the public sitting in the public gallery would have access to the footage, and that therefore in the standard case there could be no objection in principle to the conveying of this evidence to a wider public by the media. Of course, particular aspects of evidence may be required to be treated with greater sensitivity, while some footage - as in this case - may be released earlier to the media where to do so may assist the investigation. Battle also extrapolates from this movement in the direction of open justice to moot the benefits of televising the courts more generally...

    Finally, as witnessed in previous high profile trials, there was an observable contrast between UK and US approaches to commentary by jurors in the aftermath of the trial of Conrad Black, former owner of the Telegraph. A number of jurors explained that there had been prolonged debate over the sufficiency of evidence on a number of counts, with the result that deliberations became interminable and boring. Black was found guilty on four counts (comprising allegations of fraud and obstructing justice); he is due to be sentenced in November.

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