Open justice is one of the most fundamental tenets of any fair legal system. That means justice must not only be done but also seen to be done, a task in which the press plays a vital role. Only in exceptional cases can reporting restrictions be justified, such as to protect children or rape victims. Even then, such restrictions will often be temporary, lasting only until the end of a series of related trials, that might otherwise be jeopardised by premature publication of prejudicial material. A heavy burden rests on the judge to give high priority to the public interest in the open administration of justice in considering any application for a closed trial. Decisions must never be made on an arbitrary or inconsistent basis. But that is what now seems to be happening. During the recent high-profile trial of Wong Kwai-nam, for sending threatening letters to prominent personalities, the judiciary seemed blind to the possibility of all the publicity prejudicing his case, at one stage scheduling a High Court jury trial to begin the day after his conviction in the District Court on related charges. Now Mr Justice Raymond Sears has gone to the opposite extreme, banning the press from reporting yesterday's conclusion of a jury trial, since the defendant still faces other related charges. Had the restriction been imposed at the start of the trial it might have served some purpose. Instead the press were given no inkling there might be any danger of prejudicing future trials, being allowed to freely report the testimony of witnesses and the facts of the case. Only the trial's conclusion was suppressed, so making a mockery of any real attempt to protect the defendant's right to justice. That reinforces concerns about the arbitrary way in which such important decisions seem to be made.