New rules on reporting restrictions

Mar 17, 2015

New court rules will give the media an opportunity to make representations before any orders imposing reporting restrictions are made, the Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) has announced. 

An Act of Sederunt, which will come into force on 1 April 2015, amends the Rules of the Court of Session and the Sheriff Court Rules in respect of orders which restrict the reporting of proceedings.  

The present rules concerning the arrangements for notifying the media of court orders restricting the reporting of proceedings relate only to orders made under section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. 

In light of developments in the law, the changes will extend the current rules to all instances where the court is considering making an order restricting reporting. 

In addition, the rules will be modified to provide that an order is not made, or does not become final, until the media have had an opportunity to be heard.  

Accordingly, the new rules will provide for a court considering making such an order to make an interim order, which will allow an interested party who would be directly affected by the making of an order an opportunity to make representations to the court before an order is made. 

Notes to editors 

In 2013 the Scottish Civil Justice Council conducted a consultation on reporting restrictions, which was accompanied by draft rules for the Court of Session. 

The proposals derived from a related review carried out by Lord Woolman and Sheriff Principal Lockhart. 

However, the proposals to amend the rules had been put on hold pending the outcome of an appeal by the BBC to the UK Supreme Court in the case of A v British Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland). 

Following the issue of that judgment on 8 May 2014, the SCJC considered the draft rules which had been revised in light of the consultation responses and the Supreme Court judgment and agreed that they be submitted to the Court of Session once sheriff court provisions had been drafted. Parallel rules for the criminal courts were then prepared and considered by the Criminal Courts Rules Council. 

This Act of Sederunt (Rules of the Court of Session and Sheriff Court Rules Amendment No. 3) (Reporting Restrictions) 2015 accordingly amends the Rules of the Court of Session, the Ordinary Cause Rules and the Summary Application Rules in respect of orders which restrict the reporting of proceedings. 

The changes extend the current rules which deal with orders made under section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 to all orders that restrict the reporting of proceedings. 

In addition, the new rules allow a court considering making such an order to make an interim order to allow an interested person who would be directly affected by the making of an order an opportunity to make representations to the court before an order is made. 

Where an interim order is made, interested parties will be notified via email and have two days to make representations to the Court. 

Where representations are lodged a hearing will be fixed, but if no representations are lodged the clerk will put the interim order before the Court in chambers so that it may resume consideration of whether to make an order. 

If no order is made, the Court must recall the interim order.  

Where an order has been made, interested persons will again be notified via email and the making of the order will appear on the Scottish Court Service webpage.  

Any person aggrieved by the making of the order may at any time thereafter apply for the revocation or variation of the order.

Providing Feedback

The SCJC welcomes feedback on any aspect of court rules.

Please email your comments to the Secretariat scjc@scotcourts.gov.uk