Media Restrictions

 

Civil Law

In general, there are no reporting restrictions, whether prior to, during or after the trial.

Non-parties to a case can obtain any statement of case filed after 2 October 2006. The statement of case includes the claim form, the 'Particulars of Claim', the 'Defence', the 'Reply to the Defence', and any further information given in relation to those documents. An exception applies for documents confining the issues. Permission of the court may be sought to obtain other documents on the court's file.

Copies of judgments made and orders are available without the permission of the court.

Supreme Court hearings and legal arguments and delivery of the final judgment in the Court of Appeal may be broadcast live. The Supreme Court has a live streaming service.

Since 6 April 2016, skeleton arguments (anonymised in family proceedings) are provided to accredited reporters in cases being heard in the Court of Appeal.

 

Criminal Law

The general rule is that the administration of justice must be done in public and that the public and the media have the right to attend all court hearings and the media is able to report those proceedings fully and contemporaneously. Any restriction on these usual rules is exceptional and must be based on necessity. The burden is on the party seeking the restriction to establish it is necessary on the basis of clear and cogent evidence. The terms of any order must be proportionate.

There are a number of automatic reporting restrictions, which are statutory exceptions to the open justice principle. For example, victims of a wide range of sexual offences are given lifetime anonymity under the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992.

Before imposing a discretionary reporting restriction, courts should check that no automatic reporting restriction already applies that would make a discretionary restriction unnecessary.

The Contempt of Court Act 1981 provides the framework for all reporting of criminal proceedings in England and Wales. The strict liability rule makes it a 'Contempt of Court' to publish anything to the public which creates a substantial risk that the course of justice in the proceedings in question will be seriously impeded or prejudiced, even if there is no intent to cause such prejudice (sections 1 and 2, Contempt of Court Act).