Television cameras will be allowed into Crown Courts in England and Wales for the first time under draft legislation being introduced by the British Government today, though the move is being restricted to judges’ sentencing remarks.
Proceedings from certain Court of Appeal cases are currently broadcast, but the Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 will extend this to allow the public to hear High Court and senior Circuit judges in high-profile courts, such as the Old Bailey, explain the reasons behind their sentencing decisions.
Other court users – such as victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff – will not be filmed under the plans.
There are other restrictions: broadcasters will need permission from the judiciary in advance, and filming will be subject to normal reporting restrictions. In live broadcasts, there will be a short delay to ensure these restrictions are not breached.
Britain’s Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland said that allowing cameras into the Crown Courts would improve public understanding of the justice system.
“It will ensure our courts remain open and transparent, and allow people to see justice being delivered to the most serious of offenders,” he said.
British broadcasters have welcomed the legislation, which follows a three-month pilot programme, which allowed sentencing remarks to be filmed ìn eight Crown Courts. The BBC, ITN and Sky News have worked together to campaign for the change.
Fran Unsworth (director of news and current affairs at the BBC, described the news as “a momentous day for transparency in our justice system”.
ITN’s head of compliance, lawyer John Battle, called it a “landmark moment”, while Sky News’ chief John Ryley said it was “a further step in helping the public to understand the constraints under which judges work, and the complexities of many of the biggest criminal cases”.
Filming is already allowed in the Supreme Court, though this is carried out by the court itself.
Proceedings in the Irish Supreme Court were broadcast for the first time in October 2017, in what Chief Justice Frank Clarke said would be a way of demystifying the courts process.