TV cameras will be allowed into criminal cases in the Crown Court for the first time.  New legislation, introduced by the government, will now allow cameras to broadcast the sentencing remarks of High Court and Senior Circuit judges.

The move is part of the government’s court reform and digitalisation programme, and is designed to improve the public’s understanding of the justice system. Only the judges will be filmed and no other court users including victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff, will be recorded.

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, said the move will ensure that the courts are transparent, and it will allow people to see justice being delivered to the most serious of offenders.

Broadcasters, which have campaigned to be allowed to film in courts, welcomed the move. “Today’s announcement comes after a great campaign by the BBC, ITN and Sky to allow filming of judges’ sentencing remarks in the Crown Court and is a momentous day for transparency in our justice system,” said Fran Unsworth, Director of News and Current Affairs at the BBC.

But some senior lawyers have warned about sentencing being turned into a ‘spectator sport’. “We must guard against unwarranted attacks on judges where the sentence isn’t popular with the public. ‘Enemies of the people’ type proclamations, where judges have been personally attacked and their independence questioned simply for doing their job, are completely unacceptable,” said Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council.

The move extends the filming of court cases in the UK.  The Supreme Court already streams its proceedings live online and broadcasters have been able to film Appeal Court decisions since 2013.

James Burgoyne, Director – Claims & Technical, Brunel Professions asks whether the move will be extended to civil cases in the future. “While most civil cases do not have the drama of criminal trials, it would be very interesting for professionals, lawyers and insurers to be able to hear and learn from judges remarks in civil cases, such as liability and negligence hearings.”

The government says that broadcasters will need to obtain permission from the judiciary in advance of filming and the usual reporting restrictions will apply.

The government’s press release about the announcement has been published on the gov.uk website.  Reports about the move have been published by the Law Society Gazette.

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