Sentencing Guidelines on Prosecuting Journalists: Chief Crown Prosecutor Martin Goldman Calls for Contributions

31/05/2012

At the Crown Prosecution Service we want your views on how we decide if a journalist, or those who interact with them, should be prosecuted for breaking the law during the course of their work.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for Yorkshire and Humberside, Martin Goldman, said:

"No journalist is above the law, although basic freedoms such as freedom of speech are enshrined in law. There may be a public interest served by journalistic endeavour in, for example, exposing wrongdoing. 

"But this is an extremely sensitive issue, with a lot to consider - so much so that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC,  has launched a public consultation. As Yorkshire and Humberside's Chief Crown Prosecutor, I want to make sure your opinions are heard.

"It would be easy to assume that issues like this will only affect the national media but local journalists are those who are on the ground doing a vital job in scrutinising those in power up and down the country and reporting on local issues including the work of the CPS, of course. As such the contribution from those who read local newspapers, and rely on them to hold those in power to account, is extremely valuable.

"Interim guidelines have been drawn up so you can see the approach we are currently taking. This consultation will help us determine if these guidelines are right, or whether any changes are needed. When we make charging decisions we look at the evidence available but also whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. These guidelines help in deciding both and the key question we have to address is whether the public interest served outweighs the overall criminality.

"These guidelines wont just apply to people who are employed as journalists. They may apply to you if you are a local blogger or tweeter. Anyone who is writing or commenting in any form could be subject to these guidelines.

"Freedom of expression and the public's right to know about important matters of public debate are an essential foundation of our society but there are limits for those who cross the line into criminality.  These guidelines,which are available to view on our national website, will assist prosecutors in striking the right balance between those interests. Please let us know if you think we have got it right."

You can find the guidelines on the CPS website  - www.cps.gov.uk .  The consultation ends on Tuesday 10 July.