Abigail Bright helps draft media guidelines for courts in terrorism cases

For two weeks, Abigail Bright is assisting a delegation of judges drawn from several jurisdictions, resident at a conference in Prague, to formulate media guidelines for an international Bench Book, Bench Book for the Effective Adjudication of Terrorism, Money Laundering, and Cybercrime Trials. Abigail is experienced in conducting terrorism trials and media-related applications. Abigail is a standing member of the teaching faculty hosted at the CEELI Institute for the Rule of Law. Abigail will give four lectures to judges of the High Court and Supreme Court of several jurisdictions on topics including comparative principles of open justice and arrangements for reporting on trials in England and Wales.

The Bench Book, which exists in significant draft, is on course to be perfected at the close of the conference at the end of this month. It articulates principles for guiding, limiting, suspending and terminating media coverage of pre-trial applications, trials, and appeals in cases of terrorism and terrorist financing. The principles are being developed pursuant to the Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorist Offences. The Bench Book addresses practical applications arising in terrorist trials, including making available to the press copies of exhibits in the case. The Bench Book recognises that prosecutions of terrorism offences invariably are high profile and intensively scrutinised by the general public and the media. As a general rule, timely access to accurate information of court proceedings increases transparency and public confidence in the fairness of the justice system. The Hague Memorandum on Good Practices for the Judiciary in Adjudicating Terrorist Offences specifies that the judiciary should develop rules and procedures for media coverage of public judicial proceedings with good practices for specific events.

The delegates are also addressing ancillary issues including engagement with social media by judges, in preparation for a separate Bench Book.  

The CEELI Institute for the Rule of Law is headquartered at the historic Villa Grébovka in Prague.  It is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to the development and training of an international network of legal and judicial professionals committed to advancing the rule of law.

The National Center for State Courts is funding the two-week conference at which the Bench Book is to be perfected.