Court (of Appeal) on camera

Courts
TV cameras will be allowed to enter the Court of Appeal from October, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has confirmed.


Lord Judge said he was “perfectly happy” for cameras to come into court “provided that their presence doesn’t... increase the risk that justice won’t be done”.

“I’ve taken the view that the Court of Appeal Civil Division and Criminal Division can be filmed without difficulty,” he said, giving his final annual evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee before his retirement in September. His decision, which he said was not unanimous amongst the judiciary, was based on the experiments conducted a few years ago. There will be no trial period and the Court of Appeal will effectively follow the model of the Supreme Court.

Acknowledging that the cameras might create problems for those in the Criminal Division delivering judgments extempore, Lord Judge added that judges will receive media training “in the fact that the television cameras are going to be present”.

“I am bound to say that in the most cases, I suspect John and Jane citizen will find it ineffably dull, which of course may not be what the broadcasters want, they will want exciting television,” he went on to say.

Lord Judge spoke firmly against filming sentencing proceedings in the Crown Courts, however. He was “troubled by the idea of cameras... swanning around the court”, straying from the judge to defendants, their families, and the bereaved.

“I was warned very strongly by the Chief Justice [in New Zealand] that everybody said that if you fixed the camera on the judge, then it would be all right, but of course people can demonstrate during the sentencing remarks, so there are cheers and boos. So we have to be very careful about how this works.”

Nor could he envisage it ever being appropriate to film jury trials: “I think that will have a significant diminution in the chances of justice being administered,” by deterring witnesses from giving evidence and running the risk of people freezing, or acting up in front of the cameras.

The Crime and Courts Bill creates a power exercisable by the Lord Chancellor, with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, to allow TV cameras into court. Lord Judge’s evidence was heavily loaded with warnings about the significance of this agreement: “I hope I am not being cynical but I can envisage a time coming...not in any situation that I can contemplate today or with any current political party currently vying for office, but I can well see political advantage being seen in, ‘Well, the television companies have been awfully difficult for the last few months, might do quite well for us to let them do a bit more television in court’... having a consultation that amounts to no more than a statement...and it will happen.”

Extension of filming to the Crown Courts would be announced in due course, the Ministry of Justice has indicated.

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