The head of the judiciary in England and Wales has told Sky News the first year allowing cameras in Crown courtrooms has been a “complete success”.
A year ago to the day, the the first cameras were allowed in a criminal court room in England, broadcasting the words of the judge in the case of Ben Oliver, who had been convicted of the manslaughter of his grandfather.
Since then, sentencing statements in 33 cases, including Thomas Cashman And Wayne Couzenswere broadcast live on networks like Sky News.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, had lobbied to allow some sentencing remarks to be filmed and broadcast since he took office in 2017, and says it has played a key role in making the justice system more open and accessible to the public. .
He said: “I think it was a complete success. We see in a lot of the news, short snippets of condemnation statements, which contain the heart of what happened…And that also helped to show people people as judges aren’t as represented in TV shows or movies sitting there with long wigs, most of them foaming at the mouth and in their 80s, but representing a broad cross-section of society.”
Taking pictures or filming in court is a contempt, but the law has been changed to allow broadcasters to film sentencing speeches – where permitted – in the hope of better informing the public.
Filming has been permitted by the Court of Appeal since 2013, while criminal proceedings can also be televised in Scotland, although this rarely happens.
Parliament is currently consulting on whether to expand filming in England and Wales to include more senior judges at the Crown Court.
“Likely” that certain types of civil proceedings can be demonstrated
Lord Burnett believes the obvious next step is to “release an increasing number of sentencing statements in cases in which the public has a genuine interest. And that will inevitably happen in the months and years to come. I also suspect that the range of cases that can be used for dissemination of sentencing remarks will be expanded.”
He also thinks the type of cases brought forward will grow and said: “I also think it’s likely that certain types of civil proceedings will also enter the broadcasting network, and in particular high-profile challenges to decisions. which are heard by the administrative tribunals.”
The reason cameras are not allowed in courtrooms in England and Wales is to protect the judicial process, and Lord Burnett says while it is important to broaden public understanding of how whose legal decisions are made, there are lines that should not be crossed.
He said: “Court proceedings, whether civil proceedings concerning money or appeal proceedings, which are now widely publicized, and criminal proceedings are important and solemn proceedings. They are not not a form of public entertainment and I do worry that some of the broadcasting that we’ve seen around the world has just turned into daytime television entertainment, and I don’t think that’s in the interest of Justice.
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“Personally, I think there is a risk of drawing a line under the broadcasting of witness statements. Witnesses are under enormous pressure in any procedure, whatever its nature, and by adding the possibility of it being broadcast and seen by hundreds of thousands, or millions of people, that seems to me to be a very difficult thing to contemplate.
“The other thing to keep in mind, particularly in the criminal context, is that there are a huge number of people involved in criminal cases who, for one reason or another, are entitled to anonymity.
“And so, you have to be extremely careful not to inadvertently cross statutory lines.”