Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Public reminded of the good power of the Press


RELEASE DATE: 12 June 2014

[frame align=”left”] CIoJ logo [/frame]Details of how media organisations have protected centuries of legal tradition of open justice are a stark reminder of the positive power of the Press.

By scuppering an attempt by legal officials to hold the first ever completely secret criminal trial, the Press has made sure that the public will know who is on trial, opening arguments and the result of the case.

Appeal Court Judges, Lord Justice Gross, Mr Justice Simon and Mr Justice Burnett today agreed that although the “core” of the terrorism trial could be partly heard in secret, parts must be in public.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had claimed they may have to abandon the prosecution if judges did not ban the press and the public from every part of the proceedings. But media group lawyers raised concerns with the Court of Appeal and today judges agreed saying that they had “grave concerns” about the cumulative effect of anonymising defendants and holding the hearings in secret.

Dominic Cooper for the CIoJ said: “With all the flak that is being thrown at the journalistic profession, people should be reassured, and perhaps acknowledge, that the efforts of the Press are the only reason we know about this case in the first place.

“If anyone needed it, this case is a sharp reminder of the power of the Press being used for the good of the people; and the Press carrying out their duty as the eyes and ears for the public.

“The debate about this case can now be had and that is reassuring.”



Notes for Editors:

  • The two defendants were arrested in October 2013 in circumstances that were widely reported at the time. Mr Incedal is charged with preparing for acts of terrorism contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006 and a further allegation of collecting information useful to terrorism. Mr Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is charged with collecting information useful to terrorism and possession of false identity documents.
  • Lord Justice Gross said: “Open justice is both a fundamental principle of the common law and a means of ensuring public confidence in our legal system. Exceptions are rare and must be justified on the facts. Any such exceptions must be necessary and proportionate. No more than the minimum departure from open justice will be countenanced.”

“For the [secret intelligence] agencies to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity. From time to time, tensions between the principle of open justice and the needs of national security will be inevitable.

“We add only this. We express grave concern as to the cumulative effects of holding a criminal trial in camera and anonymising the defendants. We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where both departures from open justice will be justified. Suffice to say, we are not persuaded of any such justification in the present case.”

  • Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.