The Open Justice Principle
Under the English legal system, the judicial process must be carried out in public, openly and with integrity. There is a common understanding and belief among members of the English judicial system that “justice must not only be done but seems to be done”. Article 10 of ECHR provides freedom of expression to everyone, freedom to hold opinions, freedom to receive and impart information and idea without any interference by any public authority.
Article 10 provides the media with a right to attend and report the events including cases current and past. Article 10 provides a right to the public to know what has occurred in the courts. However, it is important to understand that English courts have the powers to restrict the reporting of cases under certain circumstances. However, the courts cannot, without good reason and legal authority, restrict access to proceedings.
A report released by the Corruption Watch UK has criticised the over-use of powers to restrict reporting on certain cases, by the courts. The report found that a large number of fraud trials and foreign bribery cases have effectively been held behind closed doors. This can lead to concerns of a lack of transparency in the system.
Rahul Rose, the head researcher of the report said that “ the lack of open justice in the court system is having a worrying effect on anti-corruption enforcement with many bribery trials receiving no contemporaneous coverage, and in some significant hearings the proceedings are held in private.”
When can courts impose reporting restrictions?
Courts may ban media coverage in certain cases if the hearing of the case in public would frustrate or render impractical the administration of justice, or if the hearing of evidence would harm national security. Victims of sexual offences have protection from being identified by the media. Police informants will also not be identified by media reporting.
There is also a blanket restriction on the reporting from activities in the Youth Court or the involvement of under 18s appearing in adult criminal courts.
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