A senior QC has claimed that the local media has largely abandoned press benches at court houses and “The public receive no professional narrative of the way we arrive at justice.”
Bar Council chairman Andrew Langdon QC, told journalists: “Due to the decline in court reporters, justice operates essentially unseen and unheard by the public.”
He continued: “Court reporters, and especially court reporters from local newspapers, have been declining in number for years and may soon be largely a thing of the past.”
Worryingly, Mr Langdon believes that the void left by journalists is being replaced by untrained, citizen-journalists.
Langdon said: “Increasingly and perplexingly, into the vacuum drop one-sided reports via social media, not from professional journalists, but from aggrieved parties who, like single-issue campaigners or nefarious pressure groups with their own agenda, have access to mass communication and so can feed a narrative that often grossly distorts reality.
“If it were not for this fairly recent phenomenon, the decline in court reporting would perhaps matter less.
“Why, after all, does the public need to know about what actually happens in court?
“One answer, I suppose, is that some level of public legal education is desirable, especially when some politicians seem inclined to trample over the hitherto relatively sacrosanct territory of judicial independence.”
Langdon believes the problem is at its worst in family courts, where he suggests: “A decline in the number of court reporters and the limited number of published judgments, exacerbated by individuals and pressure groups who use social media to promote their particular agenda, often results in attacks not merely upon the process but on the judges and the lawyers trying to assist them.
“Even where cases are covered by the press, they rarely link to the judgment or set out the full context, and some are downright misleading.”
Is the lack of local media coverage damaging the reputation of the UK legal system?
With editorial cuts continuing to impact on how the local press covers all aspects of local life, it is inevitable that not every court case is covered – but surely the local media have a responsibility to ensure that justice is served on their patches?