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Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts - Crown & Magistrates Courts

Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts

There are automatic reporting restrictions and the court can issue discretionary restrictions in certain cases preventing the publication of information that would lead to the identification of a defendant, victim or witness in the case. In general terms, the automatic and discretionary reporting restrictions apply both to traditional media (such as newspapers and broadcasters), to online media and individual users of social media websites (such as Twitter and Facebook).

The following links provide guidance on reporting restrictions in the criminal courts:-


The open justice principle

The general rule is that the administration of justice must be done in public, the public and the media have a right to attend all court hearings in person, and the media is able to report those proceedings fully and contemporaneously. The public has the right to know what takes place in the criminal courts and the media in court acts as the eyes and ears of the public, enabling it to follow court proceedings and to be better informed about criminal justice issues.

The open justice principle is reflected in r.6.2(1) Criminal Procedure Rules 2020 (CrimPR), which requires the court, when exercising its powers in relation to reporting and access restrictions, to have regard to the importance of dealing with criminal cases in public and allowing a public hearing to be reported to the public.

The open justice principle is central to the rule of law. Open justice helps to ensure that trials are properly conducted. It puts pressure on witnesses to tell the truth. It can result in new witnesses coming forward. It provides public scrutiny of the trial process, maintains the public's confidence in the administration of justice and makes inaccurate and uninformed comment about proceedings less likely. Open court proceedings and the publicity given to criminal trials are vital to the deterrent purpose behind criminal justice. Any departure from the open justice principle must be necessary in order to be justified.

Parliament has recognised the importance of contemporaneous media reports of legal proceedings by giving protection from liability for contempt of court and defamation to fair, accurate and contemporaneous reports of court proceedings.

"It is a central principle of criminal justice that the court sits in public so that the proceedings can be observed by members of the public and reported on by the media. Transparency improves the quality of justice, enhances public understanding of the process, and bolsters public confidence in the justice system. Media reporting is critical to all these public interest functions. There are occasions, however when it is necessary to make an exception to these principles, to protect the rights of children or the identities of some adult complainants for example. Such issues often arise at short notice and the law relating to the decisions that have to be made can be complex."
By The Rt Hon The Lord Burnett of Maldon, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

There are several automatic reporting restrictions which are statutory exceptions to the open justice principle.

Automatic reporting restriction apply to:-

Complainants of a wide range of sexual offences are given lifetime anonymity under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.
Complainants in offences under s.2 Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Alleged offences by teachers against pupils - Section 141F Education Act 2002
Indecent material calculated to injure public morals - Section 1 Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act 1926
Complainants of female genital mutilation (FGM) under Section 71 Serious Crime Act 2015
Jury deliberations in criminal proceedings under s.20D Juries Act 1974.

Reporting restriction directions:-

Direction under section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999
Direction under section 45A of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999
Order under s.39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933
Section 4(2) Contempt of Court Act 1981

There are further rules relating to 'Hearings from which the public may be excluded', Live-streaming, broadcast and electronic transmission of court proceedings (See. Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, s.47 Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the Crime and Courts Act 2013)