Editorial comment: Screen does nothing for open justice

Rashan Charles. Picture: Family of Rashan Charles

Rashan Charles. Picture: Family of Rashan Charles - Credit: Archant

As I sat staring at a black curtain in St Pancras Coroner’s Court this week, I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t doing much for transparency, literally.

The huge screen had been erected – with scaffolding – ahead of Rashan Charles’ inquest to ensure press and members of the public could not see four witnesses who are giving evidence, including the officer and passer-by who restrained the 20-year-old before he died.

It’s a bit insulting to journalists from BBC, The Guardian, ITN, Press Association, Open Democracy and our own paper to go to such lengths. Especially when the order that has already been made bans us from identifying the witnesses, meaning if we did we would be breaking the law.

Rashan’s family had also objected to the order when it was made last year, and in such a loaded case it doesn’t do much to build trust, especially as the day before the inquest began they released a statement saying they did not expect a fair process.

Obviously, our frustrations and failed challenge to the order on Monday are nothing compared with the harrowing ordeal the family members are having to go through.

They have been incredibly dignified considering they are having to sit through what must be a hugely traumatic experience for them, on the back of a horrendous year.

I cannot imagine how they feel having to relive Rashan’s final hours, watch footage, and listen to evidence from the people who were there that night, over the course of three weeks.

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Whatever the determination reached by the 11 jurors, Rashan’s family have already said they will continue their fight for justice.

I only hope they are able to get some closure, however long it takes them.