Posted by: John Brace | 6th March 2020

HMCTS issue revised guidance to staff for “supporting media access to courts and tribunals”

HMCTS issue revised guidance to staff for “supporting media access to courts and tribunals”

                                  

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX which is the venue for Employment Tribunal hearings in this area

By John Brace (Editor)

HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service) on 5th March 2020 have issued updated guidance to staff on “supporting media access to courts and tribunals”.

Interestingly there are some changes made (although at least one is yet to be implemented). I’ll declare an interest now in that my father before his retirement worked at the local Magistrates’ Court.

Magistrates’ Court hearing lists

This change comes into effect on the 6th April 2020 and relates to a revised Criminal Procedure Rule 5.8 (Supply to the public, including reporters, of information about cases) and of course the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018. The changes are in rule 5 of the Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2020 which make more sense when read in conjunction with the existing rule 5.8.

The new 3 page protocol explicitly allows for the Magistrates’ Courts listings (in England and Wales) to be supplied by e-mail to journalists and media organisations.

I’ll briefly go through some of the changes here.

5(1)(a), 5(1)(b) and 5(1)(c) are renumbered as 5(1)(b), 5(1)(c) and 5(1)(d) with the following new 5(1)(a) added:-

“5.8 This rule –

(a) requires the supply and publication of information about cases with regard to the importance of—
(i) dealing with criminal cases in public, and
(ii) allowing a public hearing to be reported to the public;”

 

An extra category is added to 5.8(6):-

“(g) such other information about the case as is required by arrangements made under paragraph (5)(b)(ii).”
 

Changes to 9(b) and 11(b) are made to allow for the Lord Chancellor to decide on the arrangements for information about cases published at the court to be published by electronic means (by that it means sending an e-mail with reference to the new 1(a)).

There’s also a change to an out-dated reference to the now repealed Data Protection Act 1998 in a new note(e) which (once it is changed) will state:-

“(e)Part 3 of the Data Protection Act 2018 (sections 43(3) and 117 of which make exceptions for criminal proceedings from some other provisions of that Act); and
 

As previously reported though, whereas this is welcome, it is different again of course to the 1980s in a pre-email age when (as shown by this Home Office circular from 1989) and I quote, “In the Home Secretary’s view, as is the current practice of most magistrates’ courts, copies of court lists should be available to the media in court on the day of the hearings and…”.

The Crown Court listings (for some matters the case starts in the Magistrates’ Court) are shared with myself and other parts of the media electronically through Courtserve.

There is also some interesting parts to the guidance as to who is or is not deemed to be a journalist.

Most of the cases I have reported on over the last nearly ten years of writing here are not criminal ones – apart from rare exceptions such as two days of reporting on the New Ferry explosion trial at Liverpool Crown Court – so there is no press gallery. Most of the time (for example at the local Employment Tribunal venue which is also used for some other types of tribunal too) there’s not even a table so I do tend to struggle a bit at times.

Tribunals, tribunals and more tribunals

The guidance to staff deals with all the many different and varied tribunals. So far I’ve reported on hearings of Employment Tribunals, First-tier Tribunal (Information Rights) which is part of the General Regulatory Chamber, First-tier Tribunal (Social Security and Child Support) but only as I was a party, First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum) but there are other types of obscure Tribunal types listed below that although they meet in public and from a political reporting angle may possibly have incredibly interesting stories that should be told, from memory I have yet to read any reports by journalists about hearings of these sorts of tribunals:-

First-tier Tribunal (Care Standards)
Details of upcoming care standards tribunal hearings (parties, date starting, number of days, type of hearing and venue)

First-tier Tribunal (Primary Health Lists)
Details of upcoming hearings of the primary health lists tribunals (parties, date starting, number of days, type and venue)

First-tier Tribunal (Asylum Support) – part of the Social Entitlement Chamber
Hearing lists not published except at tribunal venue.
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: 0800 681 6509

First-tier Tribunal (Tax Chamber) (which includes MPs’ expenses)
Hearing lists not published except at tribunal venue.
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: taxappeals@justice.gov.uk and 0300 123 1024

First-tier Tribunal (War Pensions & Armed Forces Compensation)
Hearing lists not published except at tribunal venue.
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: armedforces.chamber@justice.gov.uk and 020 3206 0701

First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)
Basic case details – name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases should be provided to journalists enquiring about specific cases.

Contact details:
Agricultural land and drainage aldgeneralenquiries@justice.gov.uk and 0161 237 9491
Land registration alr@justice.gov.uk and 020 7291 7250
Residential property: Eastern Region rpeastern@justice.gov.uk and 01223 841 524
Residential property: London Region London.Rap@justice.gov.uk and 0207 446 7700
Residential property: Midlands Region rpmidland@justice.gov.uk and 0121 600 7888
Residential property: Northern Region rpnorthern@justice.gov.uk and 0161 237 9491
Residential property: Southern Region rpsouthern@justice.gov.uk and 01243 779 394

Reserve Forces Appeal Tribunal
Hearing lists not published except at tribunal venue.
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: 0161 833 6150 (Regional Secretary)

Gangmasters Licensing Appeal
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: 0161 833 6150 (Regional Secretary)

Re-instatement Committees
Journalists asking about specific case details can be told name of appellant, case number, date of hearing and venue for listed cases.

Contact details: 0161 833 6150 (Regional Secretary)

Upper Tribunal – Lands Chamber
Details of upcoming Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) hearings (parties, date starting, number of days, type of hearing and venue). Journalists may attend most hearings exception Reference of Consent cases which begin with CON.

I’ve left out some types of tribunal where their hearings that either totally in private, or meet in private by default (but can be in public) or ones that tend to be pretty well reported by the media (such as employment tribunals).

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