Freedom of speech is the bit that’s left after the state has had its fill

After Broadchurch liberties with court procedure, lawyers are starting to understand why reporters so often want to smash their TV screens

Broadchurch is on ITV1, Monday at 9pm

Broadchurch is on ITV1, Monday at 9pm

Lawyers and insiders are outraged by the disregard for legal procedure in TV series Broadchurch. This includes witnesses watching the court case from the public bench. Legal argument in front of a jury. Wholly implausible judgments from the bench.

“Someone send them a copy of the Criminal Procedure Rules,” tweeted BBC Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani.

Welcome to our world. Journalists are forever screaming at the screen at the latest fictional breaches of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 et al.

Every time an actor-reporter harangues a witness mid-trial on the court steps for their reactions the unfolding drama, we’re thinking – never happens. A reporter’s ability to report on a trial while the case is “active” is hugely restricted.

“Freedom of speech is an absolute human right. End of,” go the arguments on street corners where Charlie Hebdo supporters unfurl their copies like banners.

Er, no. There is no absolute right to freedom of speech in this country. Article 10 of the Human Rights Act concerning freedom of expression is a qualified right, limited by law, duty and responsibility.

Freedom of speech is what’s left over when the law has taken out chunks for the protection of the state and others.

With appropriate checks on power, it makes sense – the court rules are frustrating and restrictive but tend towards good outcomes.

Giles BroadbentFreedom of speech is the bit that’s left after the state has had its fill

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