The thrill of reporting in a court

Photo Credit: Cristiana Ferrauti
“If you get tired, get out, because I'll fire you. If you find that the funny stories are starting to matter more than the case, get out or I'm going to fire you. And if, God forbid, you wake up one day and you just don't care anymore... then please, just get out. Because then I'm going to really have to fire you.
“But if you're ready to take that kind of risk...welcome”.

By using these words, Sean Casey (Andy García) ends the film Night Falls on Manhattan (by Sidney Lumet, 1997).

A lawyer must be strong, must be ready to face whatever situations that he may encounter in the court, have he had the chance to choose the case or not.

For a journalist, the fate is almost similar.
You may spend your entire career fighting against injustice. It is up to you whether pursue your profession in this field or to chooce another place to write stories.

These are the final concepts that Guy Toyn, court reporter, tried to leave us.
He has introduced us, the Multimedia Journalism class, in the Old Bailey, one of the building which houses the Crown Court.

The structure is located in the centre of London, St Paul station, where the people move quickly through the streets during the rush hours, at times shoving the young visitors who stand still on the pavement, like we did yesterday morning.

No mobile phones, no camera, no audio recording: any electronic devices is not allowed inside, where polished marble walls welcome judges and lawyers with wigs and black robes.

Previously, it was sufficient to go to the police station to know about the current cases. After a while, you became familiar with the police officers and your articles were nearly ready after a chat with them.
Nowadays, instead, the life for a court reporter is much harder.
The journalists are confined in the Press Office.

Everything reported from the court risks to be defamatory, but the media are sort of covered by the right to let people know.
Accordingly, everything stated in front of the judge and of the jury can be reported, “as far as it is accurate and contemporaneous”, as Guy Toyn confirms us.
Sometimes, even tweets and notes are allowed, but they must not interfere with the process.

Guy told us that within a day his duty consists of following an average of three stories: how they develop and the changes that occur. The challenge, afterwards, is to write for each one a piece of about 500 words in half an hour.
Time flies and, as we have learnt in class, in case you are not able to report quickly the news, someone else will do it for you. And you lose your chance.

At the end of the visit, we have reached the public gallery to attend at some cases.
As an Italian student, the main difference that I have noticed with our legal system is the presence of a jury.
The judgement is not issued by a jury of peers: the decisions are, instead, made by a judge or a panel of judges, who refer to the Codes. The only exception is the Corte d’Assise – a criminal trial court for the major offences.

Conversely, the English Common Law provides a judge who apply legal precedents to the fact before him. If a higher court has adopted a particular approach, the same interpretation must be followed by the lower courts in the hierarchy.

Photo Credit: By Jimmy Harris (Flickr)
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via Wikimedia Commons
Whether you write driven by curiosity or by a sense of justice, there are many valid reasons why you should work in the Court Press Office, no matter how tiring the life could be.

And, as we may see, they are the same reasons why “crime film, thriller movies are still the bestseller”, as Guy Toyn said.