One state premier has pledged to back journalists covering controversial court cases after a hearing into the shocking alleged murder of 70-year-old grandmother Vyleen White was closed off to reporters this week.
Queensland Premier Steven Miles, speaking at the Queensland Media Club on Tuesday, suggested magistrates were too cautious about allowing reporters to cover high-profile cases and the media blackout could degrade the proper “scrutiny” of court processes.
“At the moment, magistrates are erring too much on the side of not allowing journalists in. I can think of instances though where it is reasonable,” he said on Tuesday.
“I can see that there are reasons why magistrates should on a case-by-case basis be able to make that assessment.
“But I think they’re making the assessment too often not to have reporters there and I’d certainly look for ways to encourage magistrates to sort of consider making the courts more open.”
Mr Miles’ remarks came a day after acting magistrate Robert Turra blocked reporters from covering a hearing into the alleged murder of Ms White, arguing the media’s presence in the court could be “prejudicial” to the 16-year-old boy charged with the heinous alleged crime.
Ms White was allegedly stabbed to death at the Redbank Plains Shopping Centre in Ipswich on Saturday.
Police have charged five juveniles in relation to the alleged attack, including a 16-year-old Bellbird Park boy who was charged with her murder.
Ms White was allegedly stabbed to death in front of onlookers at the shopping centre just after 6pm.
Police allege she was shopping with her granddaughter when a teenager approached her and demanded her car keys before fleeing the scene in her Hyundai.
“Sadly, the motive (behind the attack) was to steal a Hyundai Getz,” Detective Acting Superintendent Heath McQueen said on Monday afternoon.
“This is senseless violence.”
The shocking alleged murder has generated outrage across Queensland and photos from the scene show a spread of flowers from people expressing their sympathies for the beloved grandmother.
Youth crime has escalated as a serious political issue in the state, which has suffered serious crimes involving children.
Mr Miles said he would take the issue of open courts to Queensland Attorney-General and Justice Minister Yvette D’Ath.
“We haven’t considered this as a government policy but my opinion is that where reporters can be in those courts, I think magistrates would let them,” he said.
“I’m certainly happy in the first instance to talk to her about how we can change that magistrate behaviour and then if that fails, I’m certainly happy to look further as well.”