Clarity Law

Specialist Criminal Law Firm Queensland
Monday, 02 October 2023 16:35

Can what happens in court be published?

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Can what happens in court be published

A question many clients ask, rightfully so, is will my criminal case be on the news or published on social media?

The answer to those questions are maybe.

In Australia there is a principle called the General Rule of Openness, which has been described as being a fundamental principle of our judicial system. The general rule is that all criminal court proceedings are open to the public and can be freely reported on. There are some exceptions to this rule, mainly surrounding Domestic Violence matters and matters relating to Children, such as Childrens Courts or where Children or victims of sexual assault are giving evidence.

 

Will there be a reporter in my court?

Whether or not there will be a reporter in court when your matter proceeds are in most cases impossible to tell. Unless you or your legal representative notices a reporter or journalist in the court, the chances are the first time you will know about it is when you see or are made aware of an article written about you.

 

What is the likelihood of this occurring?

While it is possible that there may be a member of the press in the gallery, the chances of that occurring in most courts is relatively remote. Courts like Court 35 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court which deals exclusively with traffic and drink driving matters, could reasonably expect a lower chance of media being present, than say the Supreme Court where a high-profile trial is going on.

The chances of media being present and whether they will report on a matter will depend on things such as the profile of the defendant and the offences which they have been accused of. Drink or Drug driving doesn’t typically draw the interest of the media unless there is an unusual characteristic about the offender, such as if they are a celebrity, athlete or even a person who is expected to uphold a greater sense of responsibility – like a Doctor, Principal or Lawyer.

 

Can I do anything to stop it?

Unfortunately, no. It is the general presumption that media are allowed to report freely on court cases, provided they are truthful and accurate. Journalists are required to follow the Court reporting guide for Journalists with respect of their conduct in court, and the Journalist Code of Ethics.

 

Can I ask the court to close for my matter?

There are exceptionally limited circumstances when the court will close to the public, including media. These include as written above, all children and domestic violence matters, when a witness giving evidence relating to a sexual assault and when a confidential informant is giving evidence.

 

Conclusion

While it is a naturally distressing time in your life, the thought of an additional punishment in the court of public opinion can add unneeded stress. It is for better or worse an underpinning principle that the administration of justice occurs openly and publicly. The only thing that a defendant can do, is focus on the conduct of their case.

Please note – we do not and cannot give advice on defamation relating to any news organisation publishing information about any case.

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Jack Marshall

Jack is a former soldier and now a criminal defence lawyer with Clarity Law. He helps clients navigate the court process and get the best results.