39. Power to prohibit publication of certain matter in newspapers.
— (1) In relation to any proceedings in any court . . . F6, the court may direct that—
no newspaper report of the proceedings shall reveal the name, address or school, or include any particulars calculated to lead to the identification, of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings, either as being the person [F7by or against] or in respect of whom the proceedings are taken, or as being a witness therein:
no picture shall be published in any newspaper as being or including a picture of any child or young person so concerned in the proceedings as aforesaid;except in so far (if at all) as may be permitted by the direction of the court.
Court reporting has been a focus of intense debate in recent weeks. First there was the live tweeting of Julian Assange’s first appearance in a British Court (points awarded to The Times, although most of the world’s media seems to be claiming credit for that one) hotly followed by the interim guidance from the Lord Chief Justice with regards to live text-base reporting, as document puts it.
All this let to some intense debate among media commentators, across every platform you care to think of, around the whole issue of court reporting, and how the Law of the Land is achingly behind developments of the last century, let alone this one.
Then half the online world convicted a man who was arrested and later released without charge in relation to the Joanne Yeates murder investigation, and the debate shifted to the new Hot Topic - Contempt of Court and social media.
That’s an important issue and (I reckon) the inability to control what people say on social media will play a significant part in forcing an update to our antiquated legal system. But, away from the Hot Topics of tweeting in court, and inappropriate Facebook wall posts, an issue that really needs a brighter spotlight shining on it is surely the scattergun dispensing of reporting restrictions that regularly occurs in magistrates and crown courts, under the aegis of the Section 39 Children and Young Persons Act 1933.