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« Forum on the Law Commission’s proposals | Main | Defending the Law Commission again »

Gobsmacked

By Steven | September 5, 2012

Episode two in my exasperated campaign to let people take notes in court (Episode one is here).

I understand that yesterday a Court of Appeal judge stopped someone from taking notes in the public gallery during the hearing of Greenpeace’s argument that it should be given charitable status.

No information in the argument was sensitive or suppressed.  The argument was purely legal. The media were there. There was no good reason to stop anyone from taking any notes they like. That must surely be an obvious incident of the principle of open justice. I think taking notes in court is also part of the right to freedom of expression (which includes the right to receive information). It’s one way that observers (especially those who may not trust the mainstream media to provide full and informed descriptions of the argument) may help make the court more transparent and hold it to account.

I wasn’t there, so I’m not sure exactly what the judge said. But I understand that people in the gallery were left with the clear impression that they should not be taking notes, and that only the journalists on the press bench were permitted to do so.

If so, I think this is officious and, frankly, unlawful. I would have expected better from the Court of Appeal. It shows that even some of our senior judges aren’t practicing at a workaday level some of the most fundamental legal principles that they cheerfully criticise others for breaching.

Topics: General |

One Response to “Gobsmacked”

  1. Graeme Edgeler Says:
    September 5th, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Time for some civil disobedience?

    Get a bunch of people to go along to court sitting, and take turns taking notes - when one is asked to stop, the next pulls out a notebook and begins…

    Then, when this gets old, refuse to leave and get detained for contempt of court. Followed by interrupting a hearing somewhere else for an urgent oral habeas corpus application.

    Repeat until someone gets the message :-)

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