South Western Times

Court reports part of the news process

- LIAM CROY Liam Croy is a regional editor in The West Australian newspapers group.

It should come as no surprise that most criminals would rather keep the details of their crimes under wraps.

When their dirty laundry is aired in a newspaper, it can lead to phone calls to newsrooms best described as robust.

But, just like our readers, our reporters have a right to sit in the public gallery and listen to proceeding­s in an open court.

We also have a right to report on those proceeding­s, regardless of the angst or embarrassm­ent they might cause someone who has broken the law. In a sense, news reporting can act as another layer of deterrence or punishment.

A fine might not mean much to a violent offender, but being named and shamed carries its own cost.

Court stories must be legally sound, or newspapers can face consequenc­es.

At other times, there are moral judgments to be made.

On one hand, you might be inclined to publish the name of a person who has done something abhorrent.

But on the other hand, identifyin­g them could cause collateral damage.

These are some of the more difficult decisions made in a newsroom.

We believe it is important for newspapers to shed light on the scourges of our society, such as domestic violence, sexual abuse and drug addiction. Unfortunat­ely, our courts are full of people who fit those categories.

By pulling these issues into the open, we can learn more about how they start, how they fester, the impact they have — and how they can be brought to a stop.

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