Cameras permitted in UK courts for first time

Year Published: 2012

It is expected that radical changes to the law to grant permission for television cameras to film the sentencing of criminals in court will be included in the Queen’s speech on 9 May 2012.

A change in the law is required because cameras are forbidden in court under the 1925 Criminal Justice Act and the 1981 Contempt of Court Act.

It is hoped that permitting cameras will enable greater openness in the judicial system, greater public awareness by removing the mystique of courtrooms and a greater understanding of the whole process of justice.

Last September the justice secretary, Ken Clarke, said the government and judiciary were determined to improve transparency and public understanding of courts through allowing court broadcasting. “We believe television has a role in increasing public confidence in the justice system.

“Broadcasting will initially be allowed from the court of appeal, and government will look to expand to the crown court later. All changes will be worked out in close consultation with the judiciary.”

That promise, it is expected, will be delivered in the government’s legislative programme for 2012 – 2013.

Head of the family law team at SAS Daniels LLP said: “I have no real aversion to it, as it will no doubt dispel some myths and show the reality of what goes on in court – the public will understand more about what actually happens.

“I also think that when people know they are going to be seen by a lot of people, under the scrutiny of a camera, they may be less prepared to lie. This could result in more guilty pleas from the outset or lead to cases being reopened if audiences know someone involved in the case is lying and contact the authorities.

“However, it’s important to avoid sensationalism and be mindful of the need to protect individuals and children.

“We also need to be careful when it comes to publicity seekers – for example, the courts might need to consider how they are going to control the behaviour of the public in court.”

 

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