FAQ’S: All you need to know about court reporting
REPORTING on court cases will always cause some controversy with the public and raise some questions as to whether the media is staying within their legal boundaries.
After being flooded with comments and questions in regards to articles we have posted over the past week, we decided we would answer some frequently asked questions in hopes of making things a little clearer.
1. You used the Facebook profile picture of an offender without their permission. Is this legal?
This is probably the question we get asked the most when it comes to court stories.
If the photo was sourced from a Facebook profile and it appears that the photograph was publicly available from their profile and this suggests that the user's privacy settings were not used to restrict access to this photo then yes we can use this photo, without obtaining your permission first.
Facebook has a Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, relating to what, the section of the this titled "Sharing Your Content and Information" includes this clause:
When you publish content or information using the public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people not on Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (Ie, your name and profile picture)
While we always endeavour to include a photo of an offender with their article, in the case that they don't have a Facebook or Instagram account, we will use an generic one instead.
2. I appeared in court but my conviction wasn't recorded. Are you still allowed to report on me?
Yes. While we will mention in our court reporting that your conviction wasn't recorded, we are still legally allowed to report on you if you pleaded guilty to a case in open court.
3. You reported on my case, but failed to mention the other offender/s and their involvement. Why did this happen?
As journalists, we are only able to report on the facts presented in open court by the police prosecutor report and the defence. If the other offender is yet to be plead guilty or be sentenced in open court, we are unable to report of him/her until they do. There are instances where some cases are in closed court which we are unable to report on at all. We are also unable to report the names of youth offenders.
4. You reported on me, but failed to mention all the facts of the case. Why did this happen?
As stated above, we can only report from what is stated in the police prosecutor report and what a lawyer or the offender states in their defence. If there was information or facts that weren't mentioned in the case, we would not be able to report on them.
5. Can you be held liable for a direct consequence from your reporting? E.g. loss of job, affected relationships etc.
As long as we report accurately from the police prosecutor report we heard in open court, we cannot be held liable for any direct consequences resulting from your name being publicised.
6. I appeared in court but don't want my name in the paper. Can I ask you not to report on me?
While we understand that there can be negative repercussions resulting from publicising your name and your offence, we think it is important to name and shame offenders to act as a deterrent to prevent you from appearing in court again.
We would never set the precedent that we will not report on a case if you request us not to, as it would be unfair to the offenders we do report on.
If you don't want to be named and shamed, then don't appear in court in the first place. It's as simple as that.
7. I pleaded guilty but do not think I committed the crime. Are you allowed to report that I committed an offence even though I don't believe I did?
While we will report on all the information stated by your lawyer or yourself in your defence to the crime, if you plead guilty to the charges, you are accepting that you committed the crime. Therefore we will report the facts reported by the police prosecutor.