New Criminal Practice Directions

Updated procedures on access to information held by the court

The Lord Chief Justice has handed down new Criminal Practice Directions which came into effect on 7 October 2013. The Directions include, at Part 5B, a summary of the current practice and procedure applicable to access by journalists or members of the public to information held by the Court. 5RB’s Adam Wolanski assisted in drafting this part of the Directions, which will be of interest to both the media and the general public.

Part 5B of the Directions gives effect to the Court of Appeal’s ruling in R(Guardian News and Media Ltd) v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court ([2013] Q.B. 618), and includes important information about procedures for obtaining material from the court.

The existing Criminal Procedure Rules already give details of the information that a court officer will supply to the public. But they also provide for further information being supplied at the discretion of the court. The Directions give guidance which is intended to assist the court in exercising that discretion.

Under the Criminal Procedure Rules the same procedure applies for applications for access to information by reporters as to other members of the public. However, the Directions state that there is a greater presumption in favour of providing material where an application is made by legal representatives instructed by the media, or by an accredited member of the media, who is able to produce a valid Press Card. The clarity they provide will be helpful to all those who seek to report proceedings in the criminal courts.