TV cameras to be allowed in high profile court cases in England and Wales

TV cameras to be allowed in high profile court cases in England and Wales
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TV cameras may one day be allowed to film in Crown Courts in England and Wales.

Currently, filming is not permitted, with the concern being that televising trials could deter victims, witnesses and jurors from taking part.

But draft legislation for filming is being laid down in Parliament, and the Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 would allow High Court and Senior Circuit judges to be recorded as they hand out their punishment in criminal cases.

Sentencing remarks, in which judges explain the reasons behind the penalties, at the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, will also be recorded.

The legislation will be considered by MPs and peers in a process which should take about three months. It means the public could see the first broadcasts in the late spring or early summer.

The campaign to allow cameras in Crown Courts was led by broadcasters ITN, Sky and the BBC, who have all welcomed the news that the legislation has progressed.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Will we get to see the whole trial?

No, only the sentencing remarks in serious and high-profile criminal cases would be filmed. Victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff would not be filmed.

As well as that, filming would be live but with a short time delay to avoid breaking any reporting restrictions.

But opponents to the move have concerns for the judges who will be televised, with warnings that the public and media should refrain from attacking them over their sentencing decisions.

Under the new rules, only sentencing remarks will be filmed, meaning the public will not have any context of the trial or all the different factors that led a judge to their ultimate decision.

This potentially puts them in the firing line for backlash and criticism.

It comes after the Daily Mail’s “Enemies of the People” headline in November 2016, attacking the three High Court judges who ruled the Government needed the consent of Parliament to trigger Article 50 to allow Britain to leave the EU.

The headline, and subsequent reporting, was condemned for personally attacking the judges.

What would be the benefits?

Proponents of the legislation say it will improve the transparency of the judicial system, and some believe it will help the public develop a deeper understanding of the “realities” of the criminal justice system.

“The courts are reported by journalists already,” said Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, the head of the judiciary in England and Wales who pushed for the change since taking office two years ago.

“But this gives an extra dimension to allow people to see the sentences judges pass on convicted criminals and to understand why they interpret the law and guidelines the way they do in each case.”

The media would also be able to give the public better access to judicial proceedings, which would improve confidence in the justice system  in communities where justice is being seen to be carried out correctly.

Are there any downsides?

Not everybody has welcomed the plans.

Concerns have been raised about whether filming inside Crown Courts could jeopardise the right to a fair trial, with experts saying it’s important that filming is restricted to sentencing remarks only.

Another issue is whether the move to allow cameras in courts will turn the judiciary into a source of entertainment for the public.

But the Justice Secretary dismissed any such concerns. “This isn’t some sort of blind stumble into that sort of undesirable OJ Simpson-style scenario,” Mr Buckland told TalkRadio, adding that it is “about information rather than entertainment”.