Jack Straw takes up court fight

PUBLISHED: 16:12 01 May 2008 | UPDATED: 21:25 26 October 2009

JUSTICE Secretary Jack Straw has agreed to investigate why the magistrates court is refusing to supply information to the WHT. The issues was raised in the House of Commons during Justice Questions last week and Mr Straw promised to investigate, calling

JUSTICE Secretary Jack Straw has agreed to investigate why the magistrates' court is refusing to supply information to the WHT.

The issues was raised in the House of Commons during Justice Questions last week and Mr Straw promised to investigate, calling the situation "bonkers"

The problem has arisen since the court office moved to Watford seven months ago.

The WHT's sister paper - the Herts Advertiser - contacted St Albans MP Anne Main after both papers had not received any details of forthcoming cases at Central Herts Magistrates' Courts in St Albans for seven months.

The MP said she expected to be palmed off but Mr Straw immediately wanted to know more.

She said: "He then met me afterwards and said he could not believe the situation, that court reporting was the bread and butter of local journalism and that he would deal with the problem straightaway.

"I think it is a result," she added.

The court lists stopped being sent to newspapers when the court's information office was moved from St Albans to Watford last October.

They had previously been emailed but since the move, that has stopped and no detailed lists have been posted at the magistrates' court itself.

As St Albans serves all of central Hertfordshire, the outcome for offenders from St Albans, Potters Bar, WGC, Hatfield and Borehamwood has received little or no publicity.

Journalists from both papers have made numerous calls to try and resolve the situation.

Both a new computer system and fear of breaching the Data Protection Act have been blamed.

The Home Office and judges have agreed that justice must be conducted in public to ensure that people can see that trials are fair to the defendant, victim or witness - known as the Open Justice Principle.

A spokesman for Her Majesty's Courts Service said: "The Government believes that it is important for the press to have access to the criminal courts.

"We're reviewing the national picture with regard to providing information to the press and will be in a position to say more when our enquiries are complete.


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