A NEAR-90-year ban on filming in court will be lifted tomorrow in what has been hailed as a “landmark moment for justice and journalism”.
For the first time, cameras will be able to broadcast from one of the highest courts in the land, the Court of Appeal.
After years of campaigning by broadcasters BBC, ITN, Press Association and Sky News, cameras have been placed in five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice.
James Harding, BBC director of news and current affairs, said: “This is a landmark moment for justice and journalism. It is a significant step on the way to helping millions of viewers gain a greater understanding of how our judicial system works.”
Defendants will not be filmed
Lawyers’ arguments and judges’ summing up, decision and - in criminal cases - sentencing remarks may be filmed but victims, witnesses and defendants will not be filmed. Proceedings will be filmed from only one courtroom on any given day.
It will be the first time that cameras have been allowed in courts other than the Supreme Court since filming was banned by the Criminal Justice Act 1925.
The most senior judge in England and Wales, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, said: “My fellow judges and I welcome the start of broadcasting from the Court of Appeal.
“The Court of Appeal has, of course, been open to the public and to journalists for a long time.
“The change in the law which is now coming into force will permit the recording and broadcasting of the proceedings of the Court of Appeal.
“This will help a wider audience to understand and see for themselves how the Court of Appeal goes about its work.”
There are a number of safeguards in place to protect the administration of justice, ensure no disruption to proceedings and protect witnesses and victims.
Some cases will be broadcast live with a 70-second delay to allow the removal of anything that contravenes broadcasting regulations or standard court reporting restrictions - such as contempt of court laws and court orders.
In addition, appeals against conviction which might result in a retrial will only be shown once the case is decided, and and the judge can order no filming or broadcasting if it is in the interests of justice.
ITN chief executive John Hardie said: “Filming in courts has been a long time coming and is for the benefit of open justice and democracy. Never before will television viewers have had such an insight to justice being seen to be done.”
News use only
Discreet camera positions are to be operated by the court video journalist Matt Nichols, who has both legal and journalistic qualifications.
Footage can be used in a news and current affairs context only and is banned from being used in other genres such as satire, entertainment or commercial use in advertising.
The Government said it will now consider filming of sentencing remarks in the Crown Court, with victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors still protected and not forming part of the broadcasts.
Head of Sky News John Ryley said: “Seeing justice being done will no longer be restricted to those members of the public who have the opportunity and time to go to court.
“We anticipate that the next step should be to allow the filming of sentencing remarks in criminal trials, which the coalition Government envisaged when it first announced the lifting of the camera ban two years ago.”
Press Association chief executive Clive Marshall said: “Delivering on our long-held ambition to film court proceedings is a significant moment in news reporting and testament to many hours of hard work.”
Almost all the proceedings of the Supreme Court have been filmed since it opened in 2009 and are sometimes broadcast on major TV and radio news networks.
And broadcasters in Scotland have been allowed to apply to film in court since 1992, but only with the consent of all parties.
A pilot took place in the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice in 2005, in which cameras were allowed to film in the court.
Footage from the pilot study was not broadcast.
It was in 2011 that the then-justice secretary Kenneth Clarke finally announced plans to overturn the ban on filming in courts.
Courts minister Shailesh Vara said: “This is a landmark moment that will give the public the opportunity to see and hear the decisions of judges in their own words.
“It is another significant step towards achieving our aim of having an open and transparent justice system.
“We are clear that justice must be seen to be done and people will now have the opportunity to see that process with their own eyes. It will also help further the public’s understanding of the often-complex process of criminal and civil proceedings.”