Updated Guidance Issued On Court Reporting During Coronavirus Outbreak

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has issued updated guidance on video and audio hearings in the courts and the practical operation of open justice and media access to proceedings during the coronavirus outbreak.

The News Media Association is encouraging publishers and editors to send views on the system ahead of a meeting with HM Courts and Tribunals Service to discuss media access next week.  

The guidance says: “Open justice is a fundamental principle in our courts and tribunals system, and will continue to be so as we increase the use of audio and video technology.

“In considering the use of telephony and video technology, the judiciary will have regard to the principles of open justice, as they do now. As now, judges may determine that a hearing should be held in private if this is in the interests of justice.”

The guidance describes a range of measures which will continue to support the principle of open justice:

  • Access to open hearings if/where a public gallery is available, or a third party may join the hearing remotely
  • Transcripts for hearings in those jurisdictions where they are available now. Any party or interested person is able request a transcript. Judges may direct that the transcript be made available at public expense where appropriate
  • With the permission of the judge, an audio recording of a hearing can be made available to be listened to in a court building with the permission of the judge, in jurisdictions where this is already done, the notes of the hearing can be made available on request.

The guidance adds: “For physical hearings, even when many of the participants join remotely, accredited media will continue to have access to dedicated press seats as reflected in current HMCTS media guidance although current arrangements will follow wider public health advice relating to social distancing.

“Where accredited journalists wish to report on proceedings remotely then they should put in a request to the relevant court as set out above. There have been some early examples where courts have enabled the media to have remote telephone and video access to hearings.”

Please send any views on the operation of the system and issues to santha@newsmediauk.org