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FREQUENTLY-ASKED QUESTIONS BY THE MEDIA ON COURT REPORTING
This compilation of frequently-asked questions (FAQs) by the media is meant to guide media representatives reporting on hearings and the outcome of cases in the State Courts. The information provided is by no means exhaustive or binding. All members of the media are advised to obtain independent legal advice if there is any doubt about how they should report cases.
1. Who should I contact if I have any query regarding coverage of court cases?
You can contact the Communications Directorate for information on court-related matters, e.g. the hearing date of a case. Each request will be dealt with on a first-come-first-served basis and is subject to the section’s review. Please do not approach other officers of the Court.
2. Is there any decorum that I should observe in the courtroom?
Yes, the following should be observed:
(i) When entering or leaving a courtroom where Court is in session, it is customary and appropriate to bow towards the State Crest.
(ii) Enter or leave the courtroom quietly so that you do not disrupt the proceedings.
(iii) Do not talk, smoke, eat or drink in the courtroom. Smoking in the courthouse is also prohibited.
(iv) Dress appropriately; office attire is recommended.
Please note that a District Judge or Magistrate (hereafter referred to as "the Judge") is in charge of the trial and the courtroom. He/she may order any person who misbehaves or is dressed inappropriately to leave the courtroom.
3. Can I use my mobile phone in the courtroom?
You are permitted to use notebooks, tablets, mobile phones and other electronic devices for the following purposes provided that such use does not in any way disrupt or trivialise the proceedings:(a) to take notes of evidence during all hearings or sessions and for any other purpose pertaining to the proceedings; or(b) to communicate with external parties during all hearings in open Court unless the Judge hearing the matter or the person presiding over the session expressly disallows this.Please switch your electronic devices to the silent mode before entering the courtroom.
4. Can I use a voice-recorder or video-recorder in the courtroom?
In order to maintain the dignity of court proceedings in the State Courts, you are strictly prohibited from making any video and/or image recording in all hearings and sessions in open Court.Audio recording during a hearing is strictly prohibited without prior approval of the Judge presiding over the hearing.
5. Besides taking notes of the proceedings, can I make sketches of the courtroom?
Sketching is generally allowed in the courtroom. However, we encourage court reporters who wish to make sketches to seek the Court’s directions, through the Communications Directorate, before making the sketches. This is because the consent of the parties may be required in certain cases.
6. Can I take photographs in the courtroom?
Photography, both in the courtroom and within the courthouse, is not allowed.
7. Can I interview the Judge to get his comments on the case that he/she is hearing?
The Judges and staff of the State Courts do not grant interviews, news conferences or make statements in connection with any case or matter before them. Judges speak publicly through their Grounds of Decisions and rulings, which form part of the trial process in relation to which appeals may be lodged.
Should you have any queries relating to a case, you can contact the Communications Directorate.
8. Can I request for documents that have been tendered in Court?
Yes, you may do so for certain court documents.
(i) When an offender is charged, the details of the offences committed are set out in a charge sheet tendered to Court by the prosecuting agency. If you wish to obtain a copy of the charge sheets, please contact the Communications Directorate. Such requests will be dealt with on a first-come-first-served basis.
(ii) You are strongly encouraged to be present in Court to cover the cases to take note of any orders made by the presiding Judge, especially orders relating to the reporting of cases. Information that has been ordered by the Court as "not to be disclosed" (i.e. gag order) should not be published, even if such details are available in the charge sheets.
Civil cases (excluding cases at the Community Disputes Resolution/Employment Claims/Small Claims Tribunals)
(i) You will have to make an application through the CrimsonLogic Service Bureau for access to documents of civil cases dealt with by the State Courts. The Service Bureau is located at:
133 New Bridge Road Chinatown Point #19-01/02 Singapore 059413 Tel: 6538 9507 Fax: 6438 6350 Website: www.crimsonlogic.com
(ii) Before proceeding to the Service Bureau, please approach the Central Registry of the State Courts Towers on Level 2 to obtain a Request Form for the application.
(iii) The application for access to the requested court documents will be subjected to the approval of the Registrar.
(iv) The Service Bureau will notify you directly of the outcome of your application. Please contact the Service Bureau directly if you wish to enquire the status of your application.
9. When reporting court cases, is there anything that I should take note of?
Yes, you may wish to note the following:
(i) Restrictions imposed by Order of Court
a) The Judge has a general power to restrict the reporting of the court proceedings that he is presiding. This power may be exercised when the Judge is satisfied that it is necessary for the proper administration of justice to impose restrictions on reporting the proceedings or parts of the proceedings in question (e.g. a "gag’ order). Failure to comply with such orders may amount to contempt of Court.
b) All court proceedings are open to the public unless otherwise specified. For hearings in "open court", the Judge may make an order prohibiting the publication outside the courtroom of the whole or any part of the evidence except in accordance with the directions of the Court. A contravention of such an order may amount to contempt of Court.
(ii) Restrictions imposed by operation of law
(a) If the Judge is satisfied that it is necessary for the proper administration of justice that the hearing be held "in camera", he may order that people be excluded from the courtroom during the whole or part of the trial or other proceedings. Any report of proceedings held "in camera" may constitute contempt of Court, unless permission of the Judge is obtained to report such proceedings.
(b) In addition, the media may, by operation of law, be prohibited from reporting certain matters. For example, for matters prosecuted under the Children and Young Persons Act, it is an offence to report or disclose any information that may lead to the identification of any child or young person concerned in the proceedings. Any person who publishes any matter in contravention of this shall be dealt with according to the law.
(c) Members of the media should also note that the law of defamation applies to court reporting.
(iii) Reporting sexual offences
We urge court reporters to exercise consideration for victims of sexual offences by not publishing the identities of the victims, or any information that might lead to them being identified. This would include the identity of the offender if the publication of his/her identity could lead to the identification of the victim.
C. OTHER MATTERS
We take this opportunity to remind media representatives of the following:
(i) Media identification documents
Please wear your Press Accreditation Card (PAC) issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) at all times within the courthouse as a form of identification. In certain courtrooms, there are seats assigned to members of the MCI-accredited media. If you do not have your PAC, you will not be allowed to the assigned seats.
For certain cases, the Communications Directorate will issue to members of MCI-accredited media a State Courts Media Pass, which gives you access to seats assigned only to reporters with the State Courts Media Pass. If you do not wear this pass, you will not be allowed to the assigned seats.
(ii) Safety of media photographers and reporters outside the State Courts building
Photographers are only permitted to be stationed at the base of the steps leading to the entrance of the State Courts. For their own safety and that of other court users, both photographers and reporters should avoid the area at the top of the steps and on the steps.
If you require clarifications on any of the points raised above, please contact the officers of the Communications Directorate.
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