The long-standing ban on televising, or photographing, court proceedings, is due to be overturned. Clause 22 of the Crime and Courts Bill allows the Lord Chancellor by order, made with the concurrence of the Lord Chief Justice, to provide that the relevant “banning” sections in the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and the Contempt of Court Act 1981 do not apply.
Individual courts or tribunals will nevertheless be allowed to direct that the sections will apply in relation to those proceedings. The test is “to ensure the fairness of any particular proceedings”. Such a direction would not be appealable.
At the same time as publication of the Bill, the Ministry of Justice announced that after passage of the Bill, broadcasting will be introduced initially in the Court of Appeal, where filming will be permitted of opening and closing legal arguments and the judgments handed down. After that, the Government will look at filming judges’ sentencing remarks only in the crown court. Victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors would not be filmed.
Currently the only court whose proceedings are broadcast is the Supreme Court; a live feed is streamed online by Sky News.
The issue has long been debated in the legal profession while broadcasters have lobbied for a change in the law. The BBC, ITV and Sky News issued a joint statement welcoming “this historic reform that marks an important step for democracy and open justice”. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said, “we are bringing the concept of open justice into the modern age and in doing so we will make the courts more accessible to the public than ever before.”