New Project: Full reporting of a murder trial

The sentencing of murderer Frederick Henry Seddon at the Old Bailey in 1812

The decline of court reporting over the last 25 years has been described as a “threat to justice”.

Local newspapers may not have the staff or resources to cover a trial in depth and the national press, TV and radio are naturally interested only in the most important or topical cases. Most court reports in the media will either be the start of a case (the prosecution opening, a summary of the evidence against a suspect) or the end (conviction and sentence).

But what about the witness evidence and the defence? Juries make their decisions based on all the evidence put before them (or at least they are supposed to do so), not the summaries provided by the prosecution, the defence or the media. If the public do not hear all the evidence (or at least the most important parts of it), it is perhaps not surprising that some jury verdicts are greeted with dismay (or even anger).

That is why we want to fully report a murder trial from start to finish to give the public a better idea of what happens in court. It will not be a verbatim transcript with ever umm and err – that would take too long to read, let alone write up – but it will be an in depth report of what happened with the most important parts quoted as accurately as possible.

Most murder trials last between two to three weeks. Sending a reporter to cover one trial all day would potentially cost (depending on the reporter or their employer) between £70 and £200 per day. We have therefore set a rough minimum of £950 to support full coverage of a short trial. If possible, the case chosen will be one that would otherwise receive very little coverage at all.

If the target is met, we will commit to providing daily coverage on the blog. All donors will also receive a long-read summary of the entire case upon its conclusion and an option to take part in consultation on the next project.

All of the above will be subject to legal restrictions such as the Contempt of Court Act and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, for example. Explanation of the effect of these will, if possible, be provided.

You can donate to our one-off project here.

We are also trying to build a more long-term solution, which involves funding regular court reporting with a monthly subscription via Patreon.

A further appeal would support the development of the new website. Please email us at mailbox@murdermap.co.uk for if you have any further questions about the project.

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