Plans for national court spokesmen go on trial

Proposals to set up a national network of court spokesmen are being considered by the Lord Chancellor’s Department as part of a drive to improve public opinion of judges.

Proposals to set up a national network of court spokesmen are being

considered by the Lord Chancellor’s Department as part of a drive to

improve public opinion of judges.



The idea, if it is approved by judges, the court service and the Lord

Chancellor, would be piloted in a selection of courts later this

year.



The Government wants better information about sentencing policy to be

made available to the public and the media, after a Home Office survey

published this week showed the public think judges are too lenient on

criminals.



’Widespread cynicism about justice ... is founded on systematic public

ignorance,’ according to the survey.



At present, court managers, previously known as chief clerks, answer

purely factual questions from the media. Reporters are referred to the

Lord Chancellor’s press office for in-depth briefings.



Judges have no press office, although the Lord Chief Justice, Lord

Bingham of Cornhill, has a private secretary, Nick Chibnall, who acts as

his spokesman.



Michael Streeter, legal affairs correspondent for the Independent, said

the proposals would only be effective if court spokesmen were properly

trained. ’Judges and court managers will need to be proactive in

spotting and dealing with potentially controversial cases,’ he said.



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