Site menu:

Site search

Get Updates

Enter your email address to hear about new posts. (You can view my privacy policy here.)


RSS Recent Posts

Archives (month)


Journalists in a tiz at Supreme Court’s win-win decision

I’m not sure quite how to say this. So I’ll say it twice:

Yesterday, a young graduate won her claim against the government’s back-to-work scheme. She argued that the regulations and the manner of their implementation were unlawful. Despite taking its case all the way to the Supreme Court, the government lost on three separate grounds.

And again:

The Supreme Court has affirmed the principle underlying the government’s back-to-work scheme. Standing outside the court, yesterday, a young graduate announced through her lawyer that she was considering taking the case to Europe. Meanwhile, the government says the scheme goes on. 

Why can’t the press report: Back-to-work scheme to continue, despite flaws in its original conception?

Both of these statement are quite correct. And, no, they don’t refer to two different cases. Press coverage leans towards the first presentation. But the Department for Work Pensions (DWP) favours the second. Not surprisingly, commentators are taking sides. Legal blogger David Allen Green tweeted that the DWP’s announcement was “incorrect and misleading”, inviting his followers to read the “damning” critique of the DWP’s stance by fellow legal journalist, Joshua Rozenberg.

Rozenberg had found himself in the intriguing position of giving evidence to a committee of MPs and peers on, amongst other things, media reporting of human rights cases only a matter of minutes after reporting on Sky News that the government lost and then being shown the DWP’s victory announcement. Rozenberg ended the day by writing the aforementioned piece for the Guardian, advocating scepticism of media reports in legal matters, but clearly (I think it’s fair to say) taking the view that the DWP’s presentation lacked fairness.

So what’s the story behind all this?

There is no doubt that the Supreme Court ruled against the regulations underlying the DWP’s back-to-work scheme. The Court also held that the regulations had not been implemented fairly. But the Court rejected a claim that the scheme amounted to forced labour and was, therefore, fundamentally unlawful. The regulations needed fixing, as did the manner of their implementation – and that (we are told) was done earlier this year. The back-to-work scheme goes on, and lawfully so.

See also:  The search for Ashya is over. Now we search for answers.

Now I understand why it is newsworthy whenever the government loses a court case, even on the grounds of some technicality which can be (and has been) rectified. It would have been a much bigger story if the back-to-work scheme had been declared unlawful, especially if a British Court had held that the scheme amounted to “forced labour”. But that didn’t happen.

So, faced with the actual outcome, which is the bigger story: “No, it’s not an illegal scheme” or “Re-writing the rules earlier this year was legally necessary”? Whether you’re in favour of the back-to-work scheme, against it or neutral, isn’t the news that it goes on what really matters to readers in the current economic and political climate? I’m not a journalist, but what’s wrong with reporting: Back-to-work scheme to continue, despite flaws in its original conception.

Sign up for updates by Email, Twitter or RSS Feed.

Related articles on this website
It seems that, when it comes to Brexit, we can’t trust anyone to get their facts right. Not even lawyers. At least, not Lawyers for a People’s Vote (LfaPV). I don’t ...
Read the complete article
The European courts have been causing controversy (again). Judgements handed down in Brussels and Strasbourg have left conservatives (small “c”) aghast and Liberals (big and small “L”) defending the rights-based ...
Read the complete article
In 2012, when I clicked on a link in order to watch a family friend appear in front of the Leveson Inquiry, I little realised just how much the subject ...
Read the complete article
The press are against statutory regulation of their activities. That is the message they have been sending to the Leveson Inquiry. But most people fear that, without a legislative underpinning, ...
Read the complete article
Much has been written about the Government’s appeal to the Supreme Court in the Brexit case. Political commentators tell us that the appeal is very likely to fail. Many lawyers ...
Read the complete article
What are the chances of being able to write a 2,000 page report on press regulation and walk away with all-party support (or even all-Party support)? Plainly, not very high. ...
Read the complete article
The European Court of Human Rights has decided today that police “kettling” of crowds – holding them within a police cordon for hours at a time – does not deprive ...
Read the complete article
In an episode of The West Wing from 2002, the (fictional) US President. Jed Bartlet, prepares for a presidential debate by considering how he should answer a question designed to ...
Read the complete article
Lawyers for Alternative Facts?
What equal pay teaches us about the Human Rights Act
A pressing need for regulation …
Leveson could legislate for a non-statutory regulator
Brexit: supreme logic required
Leveson – Is the battle already lost?
Court takes a liberty with our freedom
Victim statements: are they having the wrong impact?