Cameras in courts Q&A: how will trial by television work?
Only one man will be allowed to control filming from a work station that 'looks like a tea trolley'
AFTER an 88-year camera ban in English and Welsh courtrooms, limited live broadcasting will be allowed in the Court of Appeal from today. It has been hailed as an important milestone in the evolution of British democracy. So how exactly will it work?
What can be now be filmed?
Filming will be allowed at criminal and civil hearings in the Court of Appeal during legal arguments and final judgments. The government is hoping to extend this to include broadcasting of sentencing remarks in Crown Court cases. Unlike in the US, there are no plans to show witnesses, victims or defendants in court. Evidence from witnesses can be recorded but their faces must not be shown. Viewers will see only a lawyer or judge. Appeals against conviction will not be shown if there is any possibility of a retrial and 'live' broadcasts are subject to a 70-second delay. This would, for example, allow media outlets to cut swearing or a judge to redact information protected by a court order.
What were the rules previously?
Photographing, filming and taking sketches inside courts - except for the Supreme Court - has been banned since the Criminal Justice Act of 1925. However, this has not applied in Scotland, where criminal cases were first televised 19 years ago. Most recently, in July, a High Court murder trial was filmed in Scotland and broadcast as part of a documentary.
Why are the rules being changed?
The aim is to increase transparency in English and Welsh courts. "Justice must be seen to be done," says courts minister Helen Grant. "We are opening up the court process to allow people to see and hear the judges' decisions in their own words, but we will also ensure that victims and witnesses will not be filmed and will remain protected."
Who will be allowed to film the trials?
Initially, the responsibility for controlling the cameras will fall to a single video-journalist, Matt Nicholls, who will have to obey any orders from the judge. He works jointly for the four news organisations funding the project: Sky News, ITV, BBC and the Press Association. PA will then disseminate video clips for other news organisations. This means only one trial can be filmed at a time, says The Guardian. But Nicholls will be able to carry the wireless cameras and wheel his control desk - which is said to "look like a tea-trolley" - between the 15 courtrooms in which the court of appeal can sit.
What are the arguments for and against?
Aside from increased transparency, advocates of the move believe it will help improve public understanding of the judiciary system. Critics, however, have raised concerns about court cases being turned into sensational television dramas. In a Radio 4 interview for Law in Action Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws claimed TV producers want "the most salacious, sensational, celebrity-ridden cases that they could possibly get their hands on". Others say it risks altering the behaviour of judges and lawyers, or making celebrities out of witnesses and defendants. ·