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Britain looks at lifting courts’ photos ban
Pic: Shutterstock

12 May 2023 / britain Print

Britain looks at lifting courts’ photos ban

A ban imposed nearly 100 years ago on photography in British courts could be lifted under ideas being floated by the British government to make the justice system more transparent, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales.

A call for evidence published by the Ministry of Justice asks if the 1925 prohibition on photography and a 1981 prohibition on sound-recording remain fit for purpose.

The Crimes and Courts Act 2013 allows the ban to be disapplied in certain circumstances by secondary legislation.

For instance, the Court of Appeal and Competition Appeal Tribunal can broadcast proceedings, while the Crown court can broadcast sentencing remarks.

The Supreme Court is excluded from the two bans because cases heard by the UK’s highest court, which was established in 2009, would have previously been heard in the House of Lords, where broadcasting was allowed.


“Most court sittings take place when people are at work, and consequently, many people base their views of the court system from dramatised portrayals in television or films,” the Ministry of Justice’s call for evidence says.

“The broadcast media can play a part in opening up the courts to the public, demystifying the criminal justice process, and increasing understanding of sentencing,” it adds.

The call for evidence asks if all open court hearings should allow for live-streaming and remote observation, and whether any types of non-court building would be particularly suitable to be designated live-streaming premises.


Views are sought on what judgments or decisions people would most like to see published online that are currently unavailable, and what other court records should be made available.

The Gazette says that rules on non-parties accessing case documents vary across jurisdictions.

While most non-parties seeking access are members of the media, the consultation says that applicants now increasingly include NGOs and academics.

Views are sought on why non-parties want access to court or tribunal documents, and what material should, at a minimum, be provided to them.

In Ireland, the taking of photographs or transmission by video or television of court proceedings is prohibited, except where permission to do so has been given by the president of the court concerned.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland