Use of Recording Devices in Court (Tas)

The rules surrounding the use of recording devices in court are complicated. To begin with, court etiquette prohibits anyone from taking photos or videos in Tasmanian courts. Although the word “etiquette” suggests that compliance is a courtesy, disrespecting court rules can result in contempt of court charges under the Court Security Act 2017. However, there are narrow exceptions for media to use recording devices in court. Journalists can use electronic devices if they comply with court rules, wear a court-issued ID badge and only operate the device while sitting in the media box. This article explains the rules when using recording devices in courts in Tasmania.

Court Etiquette Regarding Recording Devices

Unless someone has specific approval or is a journalist, they must not bring cameras or recording devices into Tasmanian courts. More specifically, they cannot take photographs, make sound or video recordings, and broadcast or otherwise publish court proceedings. When someone attends court in Tasmania, they must switch off their mobile phone, computer tablet, laptop and audio and visual recording devices. Lawyers may use these devices only to assist them with trial or to aid with communication and comprehension of the proceedings.

Exceptions For Journalists

Subject to any restrictions that the presiding magistrate imposes, a journalist may use an electronic device inside the courtroom for note-taking, text messaging and filing stories. However, a journalist cannot take an audio or visual recording inside the court without the express permission of the presiding judge. Also, blogging on a platform that allows public comment is not permitted.

The Court Security Act expanded the ways that journalists can report from courts using devices that operate through electronic impulses capable of recording, transmitting or receiving audio, visual or other data. This includes cameras, mobile phones and computers. This accommodation relies on the journalist not using recording devices that generate noise, involve speech or interfere with court proceedings, the court recording system or technology. Ultimately, a journalist’s use of these devices must not impede the administration of justice and must comply with laws that govern reporting on court proceedings.

Restrictions On Journalists

In Tasmania, a journalist is defined as someone who engages in the practice of reporting, editing, photographing or recording for a media report published in the news or other journalistic medium. In order to qualify as a journalist, the person must be paid by an entity that is subject to the Australian Press Council code of ethics or hold a licence under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth). Freelance writers, non-accredited journalists and the general public can only use electronic equipment with the express permission of the court.

The Magistrates Court requires journalists attending court to apply for an accreditation badge. A Supreme Court issued badge is usable in both the Supreme and Magistrates Court. When an accredited journalist leaves their organisation, they must return the badge to the District Registrar or Administrator of Courts immediately. A journalist can only use electronic devices while wearing their identification badge and sitting in the media box. It is important that the journalist is clearly identifiable as a professional when recording the proceedings. The courts want to avoid the general public believing they have the right to record court proceedings because they witnessed a journalist using a device. As such, if the media box is full, journalists must consult with court staff before using an electronic device in other areas of the court.

Journalists reporting in court must ensure that their publication does not prejudice the trial. As such, during jury trials, journalists must not publish material that was revealed in court but not presented to the jury. In addition, the media cannot take photographs of the presiding judge in a trial. Instead, members of the media are encouraged to use the official photographs available on the court website.

Any reporting on court proceedings in Tasmania is subject to legislative restrictions. For instance, the Evidence Act 2001 prohibits the publication of certain questions (s195), certain identifying particulars (s194K), evidence in certain civil cases (s194L), and evidence relating to sexual experience (s194M). The Youth Justice Act 1997 also prohibits the identification of minor defendants and witnesses (s31) except in particular circumstances. The presiding judge will also sometimes make a suppression order or a non-publication order that prohibits the media from reporting any details of the case. Suppression orders are typically made to prevent undue prejudice or hardship to an alleged victim, child or potential witness. The Supreme Court’s list of current suppression orders can be found here.

Journalists should seek specialist advice if they are unsure of their legal responsibilities while reporting in court. Please contact the team at Go To Court if you have any questions about this area of law and particularly the use of recording devices in court in Tasmania. Our experienced solicitors can provide expert advice or representation in any legal matter.

Author

Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.
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