Judges will not agree to keep court cases secret

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I am not surprised that a judge last week swiftly dismissed a request that he ban reporting of a drug dealer’s conviction.

There would have been no grounds for Recorder John Trevaskis to have done so, and he made that clear in rejecting the plea from the defendant’s barrister.

The man said he was worried about the effect on his children of details of his crimes being publicised but, as the judge told him, ‘actions have consequences’.

It is rare indeed for courts to impose restrictions on publishing the details of resolved cases or the identity of those in the dock.

An obvious exception is that of children, with most protected by legislation or court order, although there are strong grounds to argue that in cases where the crime is very serious or has a big impact on the community then the public has a right to know who was responsible, however young.

The courts’ commitment to open justice was summarised by the Senior Presiding Judge, Mr Justice Judge, who said: ‘As judges we are fully aware of the principles of open justice and the reasons why justice should be administered in public where both the process, and the results, are open to scrutiny.

‘The responsibility for accurately reporting these matters to the community at large is performed by representatives of the media.

‘Without their efforts, whatever the theory, in practice the process would become closed.’

Which is why almost certainly those asking a court for help in keeping their crimes quiet will get very short shrift indeed.