Justice must be seen to be done, says Courts Minister

Posted on: March 6, 2020 by Claire Meadows

It is not good enough for justice to be done, “it needs to be seen to be done” the Courts Minister told an audience at the Old Bailey yesterday.  

Speaking to journalists at the official launch of HM Courts and Tribunal Service’s (HMCTS) updated media guidance in London last night, Minister Chris Philp (pictured above) said that the public continued to rely on the media to inform them of what is happening in the courts.

He said: “Open justice is an essential ingredient of our legal system. It’s not good enough just for justice to be done, it needs to be seen to be done. It needs to be reported and scrutinised.

“It is the local, regional and national media – newspapers, broadcasters and online publishers – that the public rely on to tell them what is happening in courts up and down the country. All of us should be concerned at the decline in court reporting in recent years and the potential impact this has on the public’s understanding of – and confidence in – our justice system.”

The event, held at the Old Bailey and organised by HMCTS, the Society of Editors (SoE) and the News Media Association, was attended by more than 80 media representatives, lecturers and legal experts and officially launched HMCTS’ updated media guidance. The event also saw a round-table discussion chaired by legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg.

The advice, developed by the HMCTS media working group of which the SoE is represented, incorporated the views of both media representatives and court staff. This followed a 12-month series of regional roadshows organised by the Society and HMCTS.

The Minister also used the event to welcome the recent decision to allow the filming of some sentencing remarks in the Crown Court and said that ongoing engagement with the media would only enhance transparency and open justice.

He said: “As the Minster responsible for courts, I am, of course, a keen advocate for open justice and I was delighted to see last month the announcement, together with the Lord Chief Justice, that, for the first time ever, sentencing remarks in certain Crown Court cases will be able to be broadcast later this year.

“I believe that this will not only help improve the visibility and interest in the work of our courts, but also improve public confidence.”

It is hoped that the ongoing digital reform of the courts service would also promote open and accessible justice, he said.

“Just as the media industry has been undergoing profound change over recent years, so too has our justice system.

“HMCTS is delivering an ambitious £1bn reform programme to modernise our courts and tribunals. This includes the introduction of new digital services to enhance the public’s access to justice and improve the speed and efficiency of its administration.

“These changes will also, over time, have an impact on the way the media covers the work of courts and tribunals, and provide an opportunity for easier and swifter flow of information from HMCTS to the media and, in turn, from the media to the public” he added.

Read more coverage at EditorsUK. 

  • Download the new media guidance on the HMCTS website. 
  • Sustainable funding needed to ensure court orders do not go unchallenged, says news boss

Photos (HM Courts and Tribunals Service) can be viewed below