In the Media

Solicitors 'refuse to give journalists names'

PUBLISHED April 18, 2012

Thursday 19 April 2012 by John Hyde

A leading court reporting agency says increasing numbers of solicitors are refusing to give their full name to journalists when appearing in court.

Guy Toyn, news editor at Central News, told the Gazette that up to one in every 20 solicitors his reporters comes across asks to remain anonymous.

He said the trend - repeated at courts across London - had started in the aftermath of last summer's riots.

Solicitors who refuse to give their names to reporters are breaching the Ministry of Justice Criminal Procedure Rules, amended last October. These state that journalists are entitled to know the identities of prosecutors, defendants, judges and magistrates whenever the hearing is in public.

'I am astonished that barristers and solicitors can be so rude and not have the common courtesy to give their [first] name,' said Toyn.

'We can ask the court clerk but often they have just the firm's name or the lawyer's surname. Every newspaper's style is for the full name so they won't use the story. There's no reason [for solicitors to be anonymous] and it's set down in statute that we're entitled to it.'

He added that the 'overwhelming majority' of solicitors were helpful to reporters and understood the responsibilities of the press. But a minority were also likely to 'clam up' when approached by a journalist, especially at courts where the press benches are usually empty.

Toyn has contacted the Ministry of Justice to report the problem and is considering approaching the Solicitors Regulation Authority if it continues.

The agency has also encountered problems with information gathering at coroner's courts, including one in Southwark where the address of the deceased is held back. In one case, that meant the story of a UK citizen murdered abroad could not be reported.