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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Justice not being seen to be done

Press release
Release date: 22 March 2018

The Chartered Institute of Journalists has produced a report revealing how important legal cases at Britain’s largest court complex are not being effectively reported and covered by Britain’s news media.

Institute Vice President, Professor Tim Crook has analysed how several significant cases received little, or no, journalistic coverage at all.

He warned:  “This is symptomatic of a growing disaster for journalism and the judiciary. If journalism cannot be the eyes and ears of the public, understanding and respect for this vital part of our democratic constitution will wither and decline.”

He said: “Justice not seen and justice not heard is justice blind and silent.”

He added: “This is a centre with 120 courtrooms, and 200 senior judges where High Courts and Appeal Courts decide on vital human interest, social, and political issues.”

Professor Crook attended what he described as “three ground-breaking court hearings making legal history: Liberty challenging the government’s ‘Snoopers’ Charter’, a businessman seeking the right to be forgotten against the Google search engine, and a 16 year old Afghan refugee challenging the government’s refusal to allow him to seek sanctuary in the UK – a case that could give hope to thousands of other child asylum seekers across Europe.”

He attended a Court Martial Appeal ruling where RAF pilot Flight Lieutenant Andrew Townshend won his legal battle against dismissal over an accident that caused his plane to nosedive over 4,000 feet while using a digital camera.

The Institute has sent his report to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport with recommendations to improve the reporting of the legal system.

They include:
Judges being trained to provide one page summaries of their rulings for the media and public; online sound recordings of case rulings; court reporter apprenticeships at the Royal Courts of Justice; better access for journalists to courtrooms and case papers; and the setting up of judge and media ‘bench committees’ throughout the country to develop a partnership of understanding and ongoing promotion of the Open Justice principle.

The CIoJ report into Open Justice may be downloaded here