Thursday, 9 December 2010


Notes from the last law lecture of the term, which will cover the main points we have learnt.

1. Legal framework in the U.K

- Criminal and civil courts
- Criminal: state vs. individual (prison sentence if found guilty)
- Civil: disputes between organisations or individuals (i.e libel cases)

- Crown courts: cover indictable offences (carry sentence of 5+ years)
- Magistrates courts: summary offences (carry sentence of 5 years or less)

- Sometimes an offence can be seen as either indictable or summary, which is known as an 'either-way' offence funnily enough!

2. Court reporting

- Stage 1: After incident - report what happened (no danger)
- Stage 2: Warrant issued/someone arrested (case is active, kind of!)
- Stage 3: Police lay charges
- Stage 4: Trial

At stage 3, here are the uncontested things that you can report

- Name and age
- Address and occupation
- Charge(s)
- Date and place of Crown Court hearing
- Bail and legal aid conditions
- Names of counsel

REMEMBER: Prejudice leads to contempt, so be careful what you report and when you report it.

- During trial: no reporting when jury is not present.

3. Libel and defamation


DEFAMATION is a tendency to...

1. lower individual(s) in the estimation of right thinking people
2. cause them to be shunned/avoided
3. disparage them in their business, trade or profession
4. expose them to hatred, ridicule or contempt

Libel defences

1. JUSTIFICATION: "It's true and I can prove it"
2. FAIR COMMENT: "This is my honestly held opinion based on the facts"
3. ABSOLUTE PRIVILEGE: court reporting
4. QUALIFIED PRIVILEGE: police quote, council meetings etc

Reynold's defence

- In basic terms, a journalist can be let off if the defamatory remarks are seen to be in the public interest.

- If you come to your conclusions after practising 'responsible journalism' (i.e - kept notes, diaries, recordings), your defence will be enhanced.

4. Privilege

- Read my notes from the privilege lecture.

5. Copyright

- In simple terms, copyright laws are in place to protect intellectual property that belongs to an individual.

- News organisations (print and tv) have an agreement to use a certain proportion of each other's material, such as sport highlights. This is known as fair dealing.

"Pictures courtesy of..."

- To give another example, if a paper picks up an exclusive, rivals are allowed to publish that information

- Same applies for internet/online material.

Read my notes on copyright.

6. Privacy and confidentiality

- WIKILEAKS SAGA! Perhaps the biggest breach of confidence story ever.

Three areas of concern. Do not report...

1. state (official) secrets (e.g - matters that may hinder home security)
2. commercial secrets
3. facts about somebody that they would prefer to remain private

Matters that fall under the public interest can often excuse breaching confidence of sources.

Read my notes on privacy and confidentiality.

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