HomeInsightsNews Media Association reports on Government reassurance about protection for journalists’ sources amid concern over new laws aimed at reducing instances of miscarriages of justice.

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Speaking in the House of Lords in response to an amendment to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (Information) Bill moved by Lord Black of Brentwood, which requested key safeguards for journalistic sources to be written into the Bill, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park said that the Government was “committed to ensuring protection for journalists’ sources”.  She also confirmed that a key safeguard of prior notification of an application would be contained within rules accompanying the legislation.

The Lords had called for the legislation to be tightened up to give better protection to journalists’ sources after the NMA highlighted the issue.

Baroness Evans confirmed that inter partes hearings, a key safeguard for the protection of journalist sources, would be part of the application for disclosure process, but that this would be covered in Criminal Procedure Rules rather than on the face of the Bill.  She added that if safeguards were needed they should follow the PACE model but that she did not believe that anything further should be added to the Bill.

Withdrawing the amendment Lord Black said: “I particularly welcome the assurance that there will be prior notice to the holder of the material at an inter partes hearing, should the case arise.  In an ideal world, I would obviously prefer that this was in primary legislation rather than in Criminal Procedure Rules — rules can be changed, whereas legislation cannot be without further scrutiny.  Nonetheless, this is a very important safeguard.

“I would obviously be delighted if the Minister was to be persuaded to incorporate PACE provisions in the Bill or, more likely, recommend that their equivalent be enshrined in the Criminal Procedure Rules to achieve the balance that she quite rightly mentioned between freedom of speech and correcting miscarriages of justice”.  To read the NMA’s report in full, click here.

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