Courts and Legal System- Reflection

The Cats lecture about reporting on court cases of all kinds in courts such as Crown, Magistrates and Coroner’s Court began with talking about showing emotion like Graham Satchell showed on BBC Breakfast when reporting from Paris yesterday.

We discussed this and mentioned other emotional reports like Martin Lewis in the bulletin when Diana Princess of Wales had died and Murray Walker getting emotional as Damon Hill won his Formula 1 World Championship title as other examples of when it is fair for a journalist to convey emotion rather than appearing to be like an emotionless robot.

It was also interesting to discuss the seemingly inevitable effects of cutbacks the BBC are going to suffer in the coming months/years like the loss of many red button services.

Learning about the courts and the rich vein of stories we can garner from them was something of an eye-opener even after we had all passed our law journalism exam with Telegraph court reporter Nicky Harley last year.

We knew that it was important that, as journalist’s, it’s essential we understand the way the courts work, right down to making sure the door closes quietly when proceedings are underway.

We learnt that summary offences are dealt with by the magistrates court and there might be three lay magistrates who have no legal qualifications, they are all criminal cases but the maximum custodial sentence they can hand down is 12 months for each offence, up to a maximum of 65 weeks.

The main differences between magistrates and crown court are that a crown court can hand out the maximum sentence allowed for a particular offence but a jury must decide that the charge has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt.

A coroner’s court investigates death in particular circumstances and doesn’t determine innocence or guilt but the verdict by the coroner can lead to a trial and criminal prosecution.

The coroner is either a doctor or a lawyer who is responsible for investigating deaths in particular circumstances such as a sudden, violent or unexplained death.

Contempt laws still apply in the coroner’s court and a coroner can give what is called a narrative verdict which is a summing up of the circumstances surrounding a verdict.

Talking about the Coroner’s Court also brought back very upsetting memories for me as I talked about my experience of being at a Coroner’s Court when we had the inquest into my sister Heidi who passed away in December 2006, it was all I could do to hold back the tears especially this close to the anniversary of when we lost her.

We can also tweet from a court although it must be kept to just fact and a journalist must NEVER be drawn into conversation about something they have tweeted from a court.

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A Day Out In The Capital

It was bright sunshine but freezing cold as I left my flat to walk to the Interchange. After picking up my paper from Chapel Street News I got to Hull Paragon Interchange in good time and found some of my fellow students waiting there.

Some of us got the 8:25 train and the rest got the 8:28 train, whilst Jools, Maria and Aaron were travelling on Megabus and meeting us in London.

Getting to London King’s Cross at 11:10 we quickly met up with Mr John Baron and waited for the rest of the group, on the 8:28 train, to arrive.

Once we were all there we made our way down to the Underground Station, got stung to the tune of £12 for a day ticket, and got on the train to Victoria Station where Jools, Maria and Aaron were meeting us to go to the offices of The Daily Telegraph.

Having eventually met them outside 111 Buckingham Palace Road we made our way into the very nondescript, but very imposing, building for our tour round.

The gentleman who showed us round was, I believe, called George, unfortunately we didn’t get his surname. He made it a very entertaining tour, allowing us to take some photos and telling us that he had worked there for 50 years but that he was 39 years old.

We were given a birds eye view of the working newsroom, before being taken downstairs to wander around it a bit later, he also pointed out what is known there as “The Golden Mile” where the carpet changes colour (from blue to gold) and so do the salaries because that’s where all the bosses work.

Also in that building he pointed out where the gym is and he showed us several different departments and some really innovative stuff like where it shows them how many readers they have reading, and which sections they’re reading at any given time, before leading us back out to where we first came in, via the dining/seating area.

After the tour we went back on the Underground to King’s Cross and myself, Jools, Maria and Aaron went to McDonald’s for lunch (naughty I know but I’ll soon work it off at the gym) while Liam stood outside having a cigarette and talking on his phone.

While we were in there a man came asking us if we had any spare money for him, we all told him we didn’t, then shortly afterwards when we were outside he came and asked us again, and again we explained that we still didn’t have any spare money.

We all met up again outside King’s Cross (where a little fruit tart will cost you £3) and made our way to the offices of The Guardian.

We weren’t given a tour here, instead we had a Q and A. First learning about CP Scott and reader numbers and the Scott Foundation, which is what keeps The Guardian trading, we then fired several questions at one of their journalists, in between being asked monotonously “Does that make any sense?”.

In all we were in there about an hour and a half and left there about 4:30 with some very useful information.

After this we had time to do whatever we wanted until making our way home, Jools, Maria and Aaron left to go and get their Megabus home, John, Jackie and Sophie went off to do some shopping and get a bite to eat and the rest of us decided to get on the Underground again and head to Leicester Square.

While there 7 of us decided to go to Chiquito’s for something to eat, while the other 2 went for a look round Chinatown. Having eaten we came back out into Leicester Square and were soon joined by the ladies who had been to Chinatown and we made our way back to King’s Cross to wait for our train home.

When we got to King’s Cross we found John, Jackie and Sophie waiting there as well so we had plenty to chat about while we waited for our respective trains (John was getting a different train) so the waiting time soon passed.

On the train we were waiting to leave when we heard a voice over the tannoy telling people to get off the train if they weren’t travelling because the train was now ready to leave.

The journey home was a bit of an experience because it was noted that travelling on the train with us were a bunch of Yuppies who had also been on the train that we were on this morning heading down to London, they had been drinking cans of lager and cider on the train this morning and they were drinking lager and Whisky this evening.

They were harmless enough but their constant playing of a game on a mobile phone and singing Oasis songs did try the patience a bit.

Finally made it home late this evening and just finishing this post as the bells of Holy Trinity strike 12:30.

Goodnight (after I’ve eaten and taken my medication).