Courts service launches project to promote press access to courts

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has launched a team dedicated to promoting press coverage of courts.

It will bring together representatives from HMCTS and across the media who will look at ways to build strong relationships between media organisations and their local courts.

The working group will also improve and promote the existing guidance to staff relating to media access.

The group - which will make recommendations to HMCTS CEO Susan Acland-Hood - will include representatives of the Society of Editors and the News Media Association, and the Judicial Office, and will be chaired by Ed Owen, the Head of Communications for HMCTS.

The initiative was launched at a Society of Editors event on Thursday, attended by former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, Ian McGregor, The Society of Editors President and Emeritus Editor of the Telegraph, John Whittingdale MP and Ian Murray, Society of Editors executive director.

Highlighting the importance of court reporting, Lord Judge said: "In a country governed by the rule of law, the importance of the press if a constitutional necessity."

Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of HMCTS, said: "The reporting of court proceedings has long been an important part of maintaining public confidence in our justice system. So its decline in recent years represents a real concern.

"I want to ensure that HMCTS is doing all we can to promote media coverage of court hearings as part of our commitment to openness and transparency, and I am pleased that media organisations have joined us to consider this issue together. I look forward to receiving its recommendations."

The group will also aim to look at how transparency and openness will form part of HMCTS' £1bn reform and modernisation of courts and tribunals.

Changes introduced through digital reforms will mean accessing justice without the need to travel and physically attend court.