Media Law Aide Memoir

Term Paper, 2009
12 Pages, Grade: 72%



1. Introduction to the media law aide­memoir

2. Reporting from the courts
2.1 Activeness of a case
2.2 Access to the courts and basic guidelines
2.3 Magistrates courts
2.4 Crown courts
2.5 The Contempt of Court Act
2.6 Special notes
2.6.1 Youth courts
2.6.2 Sex offences

3. Libel
3.1 What is libel?
3.2 What to ask yourself before risking to be sued for libel
3.3 Who can sue and what does the person have to prove?
3.4 Ways of defence
3.4.1 Justification
3.4.2 Fair comment
3.4.3 Privilege

4. Privacy and the Human Rights Act
4.1 The Human Rights Act
4.2 Privacy

5.0 List of references

1. Introduction to the media law aide-memoir

This media law aide-memoir gives a guideline on how to act according to the law and it is supposed to help to prevent mistakes. You might not be aware of it, but especially in the case of reporting from the courts or reporting about ‘very important persons’, chances are high that mistakes could lead to unwanted outcomes, e.g. harm or risk to a person or high fines and/or imprisonment for the reporting person. Therefore you should be familiar with the law and maybe also have some thoughts about ethics, before starting to report.

2. Reporting from the courts

Reporting the courts might seem to be an easy thing, but there are some important things you need to be aware of. This chapter is going to provide you with the basic information on how to report lawfully from the courts.

2.1 Activeness of a case

Before reporting about a crime you should find out, whether this case is active. A case becomes active when someone is arrested, a warrant of arrest or a summons is issued or when a person is charged orally. If one of these things appear in your case, you have to be very careful in what you write. Avoid to produce prejudices, for example by saying that someone is guilty or that this person has been found guilty of something else earlier, as this might effect the jury. You should also be very careful with publishing pictures, for this might cause a witness to pick this person in a identification process just because the witness has seen that picture in the news. If you ignore this, it might be contempt and you might be fined. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), pp. 220-221)

2.2 Access to the courts and basic guidelines

To report from the courts you would have to look at the court lists, to find out about cases worth reporting about. Before you enter a court you want to make sure that you do not carry any kind of recording machine with you, for you are not allowed to take recordings in court. You are also not allowed to take pictures. Most of the cases have to be held in public, while a few exceptions might occur. This might for example be the case, when very delicate evidence has to be given by a victim of sexual offence. But other from that ‘fair, accurate, and contemporaneous media reporting’ should not be detained. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), pp. 35, 112-113, 215)

2.3 Magistrates courts

There are three different types of criminal offences that are dealt with in magistrate courts. Sever crimes, such as murder or robbery, are indictable offences that are only triable at the crown court. They might even been tried by a jury. Some crimes, such as theft or indecent assault, are indictable offences that are triable ‘either way’, which means that they can be triable at either the crown court or the magistrates court. Minor crimes like for example drunkenness are summary offences and normally dealt with at a magistrates court. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), p. 13)

In the case that an offence is triable by a jury, the reporting about the preliminary hearings of these offences are restricted. Only 10 points can be made:

“(1) the name of the court, and the names of the magistrates;
(2) names, addresses, and occupations of the parties and witnesses, ages of the accused and witnesses;
(3) the offence(s), or a summary of them, with which the accused is or are charged;
(4) names of counsel and solicitors in the proceedings;
(5) any decision of the court to commit the accused, or any of the accused for trial, and any decision on the disposal of the case of any accused not committed;
(6) where the court commits the accused for trial, the charge or charges, or a summary of them, on which he is committed and the court to which he is committed;
(7) where proceedings are adjourned, the date and place to which they are adjourned;
(8) any arrangements as to bail (which is taken to include any conditions as to bail, but not any reason for opposing or refusing it);
(9) whether legal aid was granted;
(10) any decision of the court to lift or not to lift these reporting restrictions.” (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), p. 43)

The person who is accused of the offence can ask to lift those restrictions and the magistrates then have give the order to do so. But even without the above reporting restrictions you cannot write anything that might produce prejudices and therefore end in an unfair trial at crown court. The restrictions also do not apply when none of the accused is send for trial. You might also report more then the above 10 points, if the accused are being tried summarily. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), pp. 42-44)

2.4 Crown courts

Under the principle of open justice most of the proceedings are supposed to be open to the public and especially the press, as a good part of the public will not be able to actually be in the courtroom at the time of the proceeding but still has the right to be informed about it. Therefore you should provide the public with fair and accurate reporting about the proceedings in court. Anyway, there might be restrictions and you should look out not to break any of them, as this might cause an unfair trial and therefore could even lead to the breaking off of the proceeding.

While a vulnerable witness is being heard, the public might be asked to leave the room. Whatsoever, one representative of the media must be allowed to stay in the courtroom, to ensure the reporting about the proceeding. The court might furthermore ban the identification of that vulnerable witness. When the witness happens to be older then 18, this ban would have to be obtained for the lifetime of the witness. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), pp. 126-127, 133)

When there are applications made for dismissal and not all of them are successful, you can only report the following points:

“(1) the name of the judge and of the court;
(2) names, ages, home addresses, and occupations of the accused and witnesses;
(3) the offence or offences with which the accused is charged;
(4) names of counsel and solicitors;
(5) where proceedings are adjourned, the date and place to which they are adjourned;
(6) arrangements as to bail;
(7) whether legal aid is granted.” (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), p. 46)

When there is a jury involved in the proceeding, you need to take care. You only can report about things happening, while the jury is present. In some cases the jury might be asked to leave the room. For example when there is a discussion about the possible exclusion of evidence. It might also happen that before the jury is in the court room, the accused please guilty for some charges but denies others. The jury then will hear about the parts the accused denied and it is only going to trial the accused on these charges. In both cases you cannot report about these things, because the jury is not supposed to find out about them, before the end of the trial. (Welsh, Greenwood, Banks (2007), pp. 207­208; Quinn (2007), p.106)


Excerpt out of 12 pages


Media Law Aide Memoir
Coventry University
Law and public administration (within a journalsim master-programme)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
512 KB
This is a media law aide memoir, which is providing basic knowledge of the British media law.
Medienrecht, britisches Medienrecht, Media Law in Great Britain, Media Law
Quote paper
B.A. Veronika Streuer (Author), 2009, Media Law Aide Memoir, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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