The Law Society of England and Wales has welcomed the news that judges’ sentencing remarks are to be broadcast in Britain.
“We welcome this transparency, which will help the public to understand how the law works and decisions are made,” said Law Society of England and Wales Vice-President Lubna Shuja.
“Providing it is done in a sensitive manner, the broadcasting of sentencing remarks can be a valuable tool for educating the public. It can also raise awareness of what the rule of law means, and why it is important.”
The move will open up some of the most high-profile courts across Britain, including the Central Criminal Court, which is more commonly known as the Old Bailey.
Old Bailey first
Sentencing at an Old Bailey case – that of Ben Oliver, who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his grandfather in south London – is expected to be the first broadcasted case, and will allow the public to see and hear judges explain the reasoning behind their sentences.
Only the judge will be filmed during any sentencing that is broadcast in order to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses and jurors.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab, said: “Opening up the courtroom to cameras to film the sentencing of some the country’s most serious offenders will improve transparency, and reinforce confidence in the justice system.
“The public will now be able to see justice handed down, helping them understand better the complex decisions judges make.”
Previously, proceedings were only broadcast from certain Court of Appeal cases.
Judge to decide on broadcasting requests
The contract has now been extended to the Crown Court and Sky, BBC, ITN and Press Association are able to apply to film and broadcast sentencing remarks, with the judge deciding whether to grant the request.
The reform has been welcomed by national broadcasters who were involved in a pilot that allowed not-for-broadcast sentencing remarks to be filmed in eight Crown Court sites.
John Battle (head of legal and compliance at ITN, and chair of the Media Lawyers Association) said: “This is a landmark moment for open justice. This reform reflects the public’s right to see justice being done in their courts. It will promote better public understanding of the work of the courts and greater transparency in the justice system.
“Court reporting is vital to democracy and the rule of law, and this long overdue change is welcomed,” he said.