§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether, in the light of recent articles in the press, based on the results of a survey by the Association of British Editors, the Lord Chancellor will comment on the desirability of openness in the proceedings of magistrates' courts, including the possible scope for improved access to the records of such proceedings.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I are concerned about the allegations which have been published recently in the press and the survey on which they are based. It is a well-established principle that, subject to certain exceptions, the administration of justice in this country should take place in open court, to which the public and the press have access, and that any attempt by anyone to circumvent this principle is to be condemned.
My right honourable friend and I have arranged for officials of our two departments to meet representatives of the press, the Magistrates' Association and the Justices' Clerks' Society to discuss relations between magistrates' courts and the press relevant to the reporting of proceedings, including access to the records.
I should add that, though I am in no position to comment on them, I understand that the details of the cases mentioned in the allegations are not accepted as accurate by the clerks of the courts concerned, and that a complaint has been made to the Press Council.