It is criminal: The state of magistrates’ court reporting in England and Wales

Phil Chamberlain, Marcus Keppel-Palmer, Sally Reardon, Thomas Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


There is a widespread perception that there has been a collapse in court reporting in England and Wales as local legacy media struggles to survive in times of falling revenues and shifting audiences. However, there is little empirical evidence with which to examine the issue. This research aims to fill this knowledge gap by carrying out the first week-long systematic coding of the activity of one England and Wales magistrates’ court coupled with a concurrent survey of local media coverage of the courts. While 240 cases were observed during the week-long study, only three stories appeared in the local press and only one case was attended by a journalist. Moreover, the research team identified a significant number of ‘newsworthy’ cases among the sample – all of which were missing from media coverage. Although small in scale, this research does indicate that, in an average week, the vast majority of cases heard at this level of the criminal justice system is largely invisible to the public, with virtually no independent oversight from journalism. This is at odds with the key principle of open justice. The article ends with some suggestions for regenerating the area by shifting from court reporting to a Justice Reporting model, with the ultimate aim of effectively filling the void in external scrutiny of day-to-day criminal justice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2404-2420
Issue number9
Early online date7 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • Citizen journalism
  • court reporting
  • journalism
  • Justice Reporting
  • news values
  • open justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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