It’s an age-old adage that justice not only has to be done, it has to be seen to be done. This ruling, by Lord Chief Justice Hewart, was made in 1924 and is still relevant today.
The reason: so the public can have faith in the functioning of justice and the courts.
While it’s impossible for the public to attend every court hearing, it’s up to local newspapers across the country, like The News, to represent them in court and inform readers.
It is what local and national media have been doing for hundreds of years.
So it is pleasing that when drug dealer Nicholas Bryden attempted to stop the reporting of his case at Portsmouth Crown Court, the judge threw out his argument telling him: ‘Actions have consequences.’
Bryden had been found guilty of producing cannabis and possession of a class B drug with intent to supply.
But during the sentencing hearing for his crimes, he attempted to ban the reporting of the case, citing the effect the details of the case being made public would have on his children. He even wrote a letter outlining his concerns to Recorder John Trevaskis.
As is proper in these circumstances, The News’ court reporter Gareth Bethell also submitted a letter to the judge, arguing the case as to why he should be ‘named and shamed’.
Thankfully, the judge upheld the long-established right of open justice that was laid down almost 90 years ago.
Record Trevaskis told Bryden: ‘I am not satisfied that circumstances exist which would justify me in exercising my discretion of that respect which would go against one fundamental principle of justice in this country which is that it should be conducted in public.’
In reality it would be extremely rare for a case like Bryden’s to have been successful in banning reporting. But there have been, and continue to be, examples where unwarranted restrictions are put in place. But when that happens local newspapers are there to make sure justice is seen to be done.