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    Friday, 30 November 2007

    Publicity is the very soul of justice: John Battle (ITN) at the LSE

    Earlier this week, John Battle - Head of Compliance at ITN - spoke at the LSE on the theme of the courts, the media and open justice in 21st Century Britain. He has been vocal on this theme elsewhere in recent months. In an engaging discussion, he highlighted the impact of the 2005 Protocol on publicity and the criminal justice system on the reporting of the courts in England and Wales, and asserted that the change was perhaps the most significant in this area in his lifetime. It is hard to disagree; the Protocol has allowed broadcasters to publish evidence footage, and newspapers to publish stills, that formerly would have been simply unavailable. The upshot is that the general public is more immediately and poignantly informed of the matters presented to the courts.

    Examples of the sorts of materials available under the protocol can be seen in the following YouTube videos which aggregate material from the news and current affairs coverage of the Jean Charles de Menezes. Evidently, its a far cry from the old-style journalist-outside-court retelling of legal events, and as a result the news reporting of court proceedings has risen significantly...

    Battle's presentation deliberately left a number of important questions hanging: what motivated the DPP in opening mass-mediated access to the courts in this way? why have defence teams been so content to permit such access to go ahead? what objection now can there be to sensible, measured court coverage? why has the Ministry of Justice not moved more quickly on the question of broadcast coverage of trials after the recent pilot recordings of Court of Appeal proceedings (it is mooted that proceedings of the new Supreme Court will be televised)? what now is the role for the general law of contempt of court arising from media publication?

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