Release date: 18 November 2019
The Chartered Institute of Journalists has welcomed a judge’s decision to ensure that a police officer accused of murder and another police office of assault occasioning actual bodily harm are fully identified at their forthcoming trial.
The Institute has campaigned consistently for transparency and openness in the criminal justice system.
Judge Simon Drew QC made changes to the order at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday to allow the officers to be named, after hearing submissions from media organisations opposing the anonymity orders.
They argued that the anonymity orders were an “unjustified” and serious interference with common law open justice principles.
Institute Vice-President Professor Tim Crook warns that setting up exceptions to the open justice rule risks opening the floodgates for all criminal defendants to enjoy the privilege of never having to face up to identification in the prosecution, conviction and punishment process.
Professor Crook says: “The rule of law exists to protect people involved in criminal proceedings from any kind of threat or intimidation, and media contempt laws exist to ensure trials are not prejudiced by unfair reporting.”
Anonymity for accused criminals means they, their alleged victims and the wider society lose the protection of open justice in a democracy.
Those protections include: deterrence, public protection, knowledge, scrutiny and understanding of the criminal justice process, alerting witnesses to come forward to support the defence as much as the prosecution, asserting the value and impact of the rule of law, and justice for the victims of crime.