Televising the Courts

After decades of newsgathers and journalist's campaigns for news cameras to be brought into the court room, there has finally been a breakthrough.  The Court of Appeal (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2013 has had effect from the 30 October 2013, the Order being made under section 32(1) of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.  It allows the live recording and filming of proceedings in the Court of Appeal, which was previously prohibited under section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. 

However, the change is not a complete breakthrough of the long standing ban on recording in court rooms.  Firstly, the Order only applies to the Court of Appeal and cameras remain to be banned from crown courts and the magistrate's courts.  Secondly, the Order comes with strict rules and provisions of what can actually be broadcasted.  Cameras are to focus on judges and lawyers only, excluding witnesses, victims and offenders from view, who are to remain protected from the cameras.  The recordings will encompass a 70 second delay safeguard on the live-feed to enable the broadcasts to be edited where appropriate, for example where information that is protected by a court order is quoted, or where the camera accidently captures the face of a witness.  In cases which have a possibility of a re-trial, recordings will only be broadcasted once the case has concluded.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Thomas, has welcomed these changes with the opinion that televising proceedings will create transparency and help the public's understanding of the courts.  However, not everyone has welcomed the changes with such open arms.  Baroness Kennedy is concerned that televising the courts could end up in undermining the justice system and result in people not taking the courts seriously.

Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, has shown his support towards the use of court recording, albeit with caution.  He takes the view that cameras should be permitted in all courts, including witness trials, but that the Judge should maintain the discretion and power to decide that certain cases ought not to be broadcasted if it is in the interests of justice, such as cases involving children.

This change is a cautious first step by the English judiciary.  However; whether the changes will have a positive effect and consequently lead to recordings being imposed in all other courts is something which we will have to watch out for in time. 

Posted on: 08/11/2013

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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