TV cameras enter Court of Appeal

24 September 2014

Other than in the Supreme Court, cameras in court have been prohibited since the commencement of the Criminal Justice Act 1925.  

James Harding, BBC director of news and current affairs hailed the move as a “…landmark moment for justice and journalism…a significant step on the way to helping millions of viewers gain a greater understanding of how our judicial system works”.  It is hoped that the opportunity to view Court of Appeal proceedings will break down some of the barriers of mystery and intrigue surrounding our judicial system.

Whilst this is an exciting development, coverage will be a long way from US-style televised trials.  Only one courtroom per day will be filmed in the Court of Appeal and footage will be limited to lawyers’ arguments and judges’ comments; defendants, witnesses and victims will not be shown.  Further safeguards include a time-delay system which will protect normal court restrictions such as contempt of court and ensure compliance with broadcasting regulations.  Broadcasts will be used for news and current affairs but not in the contexts of comedy, entertainment or advertising.  It is hoped that careful control of such broadcasts will prevent the emergence of a new form of reality TV.

Many senior judges have also welcomed the move.  Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas said “My fellow judges and I welcome the start of broadcasting from the Court of Appeal”.  But it has not received wholesale approval.  Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC has expressed concern that it could result in diminished respect for the judicial system.  She is worried that court broadcasting will see the public taking our legal system less seriously as it crosses the boundary into the world of entertainment. 

It is further expected that cameras will next be set up in the Old Bailey but only for a judge’s sentencing remarks. 

The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general current interest about the legal profession.