More training needs to be given to court officials about the rights of journalists to attend and report from court cases, the Society of Editors has said.
The comment comes after it was reported that an usher and a clerk tried to ban a reporter from entering a Crown Court last week on the grounds that the judge had imposed a reporting restriction which meant that she was not allowed to attend the hearing.
Jeanette Oldham, a former Society of Editors Regional Press Awards winner, had to seek permission from a judge to enter a hearing at Worcester Crown Court after queries were raised by court officials about her presence given the imposition of an order under section 4 (2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 postponing reporting of the case until it was finished.
The Society of Editors said: “While we recognise in Jeanette’s case that the hesitation to grant her access to the hearing was rectified and that she was ultimately allowed to enter the court, there has been a worrying trend in recent years of court officials attempting to stop legitimate attendance and reporting by the media.
“The Society is working with HM Courts and Tribunal Service to look at ways in which better press access to courts can be achieved and we will be suggesting that training for court officials in the laws around media attendance and reporting should be ongoing.
“It has long been a central principle of law in the UK that justice should not only be done, but that justice should be “seen to be done” and, in this case, were it not for the awareness by the journalist in question as to her rights, she may have been prevented from legitimately attending a hearing of immense public interest.”
The hearing at Worcester Crown Court was the second day of a case involving cancer surgeon Sudip Sarkar. Sarkar, 47, denies one charge of making a gain through fraud by false representation.
He is alleged to have lied about his ability to conduct keyhole surgery when he applied for an £84,000-a-year post as consultant general surgeon at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital, in Redditch.