In the Media

PA man thrown out of court in mix-up over signing-in rule

PUBLISHED July 20, 2006

The Court Service has apologised to a Press Association reporter after he was ejected by police from a Crown Court for refusing to provide his name.

The government body in charge of courts in England and Wales has now issued an apology and backtracked over demands made for journalists to register their names when entering a court.

The PA's East Anglia district reporter, Brian Farmer, was ejected from St Albans Crown Court after being given conflicting reasons over why he should register his name and that of his employer with court security.

Farmer told Press Gazette: "I think it's the start of a slippery slope. The question is what they do with this list of names and organisations. If you said you worked for a magazine called I Hate All Judges, would that have an effect on whether they let you in? I've never been in any other court where they've asked for that."

Farmer was reporting at the same court earlier this year when he was asked by security to sign his name. He refused, was still allowed in and the practice stopped.

But last week, Farmer was approached by a security guard while he was in the court building and told that, because he was a journalist, he would have to give his details. He refused to do so.

According to Farmer, the court manager then came to discuss the matter with him, and said a list was needed of all the people in the building for health and safety reasons. But he still refused to hand over his details.

When Farmer later emerged from the courtroom, the head of court security, Brian Kincaid, and a police officer approached him. Farmer claims he was told: "If you don't do what we want, the police officer's going to escort you out of the building."

After taking advice from PA's legal advisor and his newsdesk, Farmer decided to stand his ground, and allow himself to be escorted from the building.

He said: "The policewoman said it was on health and safety grounds, the security guard said it was on security grounds.

I asked him under what legislation and they didn't quote any. Brian Kincaid said it was under the powers given to courts under the Courts Legislation Act, which I've never heard of."

After the police officer and Kincaid had escorted Farmer from the building, PA told Farmer that, because he had made his point, he should go back in, give his details and carry on.

The Court Service has since issued a statement saying: "St Albans Crown Court would like to apologise for the misunderstanding which led to the removal of Brian Farmer from court.

The court has previously operated a policy of asking visitors to identify themselves and their reasons for visiting court to help them in administering who is the court at any given time.

"This policy is a result of a local misinterpretation of guidelines laid down by Her Majesty's Court Service and the Department for Constitutional Affairs on identifying individuals attending court on business. These guidelines only apply where individuals require access to restricted areas. There is not a requirement for members of the press or public to identify themselves. St Albans Crown Court will not require visitors to identify themselves when attending court."