Court reporting - Highland News & Media fact sheet
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Highland News & Media publishes a number of court cases across our newspapers and websites.
Court reporting attracts a higher number of complaints than any other part of our business, often from defendants or their relatives.
In our experience, the vast majority of these complaints come about because of a lack of understanding about how the justice system works – and about what we are allowed and not allowed to publish.
Most courts are open to the public – which includes the media. The idea behind this is that our democracy operates on an open justice system, where justice is not only done, but seen to be done.
We may publish court stories on our online platforms, in print (in any of our titles) or both, at our discretion.
We do not remove court stories from our websites, as we have a duty to show that justice is being done. We do this by keeping a public record both in our online and print archives. We are protected by law to report and retain this information.
Not every court case is reported. Therefore we use our judgement of news values and public interest to decide which cases are published and which are not. There is no requirement, legal or otherwise, for us to report on every case that comes before a court.
What we can publish
Court reports do not have to include every part of the case – as long as what is reported is accurate and not misleading.
We report from court under a legal framework known as qualified privilege, meaning we can generally report anything which is said or given in evidence in court. Our journalists do not have to check whether the evidence given is true, but must report correctly what was said.
Names, ages and full addresses of the defendant and any witnesses can usually be published, though we normally would only use a street name rather than the house number. This allows the person to be identified so that other people with the same name living in the same area are not defamed.
Photographs of anyone involved in a court case, including photos taken by a photographer, taken from social media or supplied by authorities such as the police, can also be published in most cases.
What we can't publish
There are some things we cannot report from court. This includes any information which might identify a victim of sexual assault, as they are entitled to lifelong anonymity (regardless of the outcome of any court case), and information which identifies a friend or relative of a criminal who is not relevant to the case.
Young people under 18 who are accused of committing a crime are generally not allowed to be named, unless there is an overriding public interest argument.
There are also occasionally additional reporting restrictions put in place by a court.
Any publisher – which not only includes news businesses like HNM but also members of the public publishing via social media, for example in online comments – can be found in contempt of court.
Once somebody has been arrested or civil proceedings have started, they are protected by law from the publication of information which might mean that a trial cannot take place fairly.
For this reason, our comments policy is that online comments will not be allowed on stories relating to court proceedings where no verdict has yet been reached or where a person has been arrested and charged in relation to any incident and is yet to face the courts. Comments will be allowed on reports of court proceedings where a verdict has been reached or an admission of guilt has been given by the defendant.
Removing court stories from our websites
We do not remove court stories from our websites as it is important that we maintain a full record of archived stories.
If a conviction has been 'spent' you may have the rights to have links to these articles removed from search engines. You can make a formal request to the search engines themselves to have these links removed, but the story will still exist on our websites.