Norwich court reporter retires after 55 years

By Laura Devlin
BBC News Online


A court reporter believed to be one of the oldest in the UK is to retire from her role in Norwich after 55 years.

Maureen Huggins, 74, became a journalist for a Norwich-based agency as a teenager and covered cases at the then Shirehall court.

Affectionately known as "Mo" by other reporters, she has sent copy to newsrooms ever since.

She claims she has never had a day off sick and persisted with a story while in the early stages of childbirth.

She set up her own business, Norfolk Courts Press Agency (NCPA), in 1993, and single-handedly covered Norwich magistrates' and crown courts.

Computers, she said, "kill journalism" and she refuses to use one, instead tapping out her copy on a manual typewriter and then faxing it to newsrooms.

She was due to retire on 31 December but was forced to bow out earlier this month to have emergency surgery on her left eye.

"I always wanted to be a writer," she said, while recuperating at home in Old Catton, near Norwich.

She began as an editorial assistant at journalist Ted Chamberlain's agency in the city in September 1955, and was sent to City College for training.

Her course was cut short when the agency needed her to cover a court case at the assizes, and she never returned to college to complete her studies.

"Ted told me 'don't worry about shorthand, just listen to the story, tell it, and put a cherry on the top'," said Ms Huggins.

'Tropical Linda'

She describes her love of the job as "an obsession about why people murder other people".

As a young reporter she even attempted to write notes to send on to newspapers during her jury service - and received a stern ticking off from assizes court staff.

Image caption,
Maureen Huggins keeps her typewritten court copy at her home near Norwich

But it was not all about work. Ms Huggins recalls the camaraderie among journalists who gathered at The Maid's Head before and after court cases in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the evening, reporters from national newspapers would head to another hotel's bar to see a topless dancer called 'Tropical Linda', she said.

Years later, Ms Huggins spotted a gap in court reporting in Norwich following her redundancy from another agency, and set up NCPA.

Speaking of the changes she has seen, she said: "When I started with Ted we would cover about two murders a year and now it's hard to cover them all.

"Knife crime just wasn't about, now it's all you hear."

She said the case of a cross-dressing serial killer who cycled around Cambridge before murdering his female victims was one she will never forget.

Although the press room at Norwich Crown Court is open to all journalists, it is very much Ms Huggins' domain with a typewriter, fax machine and reams of notes and press cuttings on her desk.

She said the typewriter will now come home with her but will get good use as she composes a history of Norwich courts and her memoirs.