Court reporting is in the public interest

A couple of days each week, one of the Mandurah Mail journalists heads to the local magistrates court to report on proceedings.

This is common practice and it is in the public's interest.

It is also nothing new. The media has been covering what has happened at courts across Australia for as long as newspapers have been operating.

Legally, anything said in court that is not suppressed (usually to protect the victims) is fair game for a court reporter to cover.

The vast majority of the court cases reported in Mandurah Mail involve the accused pleading guilty or being found guilty.

However, what has perplexed me over recent weeks is the sheer number of complaints and the amount of abuse that my team and I have received for reporting on court proceedings - for doing our job.

The phone calls, social media messages and e-mails have been littered with threats and 'colourful' language.

Common criticism of our court reporting includes complaints that we "didn't ask permission" to publicise the offender's name - well, we don't need to.

Others have complained that our reporting will inhibit their job prospects, affect their mental health or lead to discrimination or negativity from the wider community.

While I can understand that having your name in the media with details of your misdemeanours isn't desirable, complaining about us reporting on your crime seems somewhat hypocritical.

The old adage says that for every action there is a consequence, and one of the consequences of breaking the law is that you may attract the media's attention.

We do look at each case in context before deciding which cases to report. Generally, only the most serious offences are covered.

Our recent data gathering shows that a total of 2081 charges went before Mandurah Magistrates Court in September 2018, while Mandurah Mail published 10 court reports that month.

Those cases were the most serious, involving violent acts, the possession or supply of drugs, crimes that endangered other people's safety and extreme traffic cases.

My point is, if you are guilty of these types of unacceptable crimes, you should expect your name to appear in the newspaper. An abusive or threatening phone call won't change that.

In reality, our coverage should be the least of your worries.

Gareth McKnight is Mandurah Mail editor