A ban on filming of courts in England and Wales has been lifted, in a move that has been heralded by broadcasters as a “landmark moment” for the industry.
The decision to allow cameras into the courtrooms came after BBC, ITN, Sky News and the Press Association formed a cross-broadcaster working group that campaigned to lift the ban on filming.
Campaigners have argued that televising court cases will help atune a higher level of public understanding of criminal justice procedures.
Following the lift of the ban, five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice are now pre-wired with cameras placed in discrete positions and are to be operated by the court video journalist Matt Nichols.
This means that for the first time, cameras will be able to broadcast from one of the highest courts in the UK: the Court of Appeal.
A number of safeguarding measures have been introduced to ensure that broadcasters do not infringe upon regulations or standard court reporting restrictions; for example a 70-second delay on live broadcasts to allow the removal of of any footage that could contravene contempt of court laws.
In addition to this appeals against convictions which could result in a retrial will only be shown once the case is decided, and the judge can order no filming or broadcasting if it is in the interests of justice.
Footage from the courts will only be able to be used in news and current affairs contexts only and is prohibited from being used in other genres; including entertainment, satire or for commercial purposes in advertising.
The Government has also said that it is now considering the filming of all sentencing remarks in the Crown Court with victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors still protected and not forming part of the broadcasts.
The introduction of cameras in the Royal Court of Justice is something that has caused a divide of opinions between many solicitors. While some argue that the exposure will lead to a greater interest and understanding in the criminal justice system, others argue that merely broadcasting trials won't be enough to educate the public on criminal justice matters.
Rubin Italia, Crime Director at Duncan Lewis Solicitors,commented;
“ I do not think that the televising of the criminal appeal courts will raise the level of awareness of the criminal justice system that the government are seeking. All the issues raised are points of law and that on the whole the significance of what is being argued may be lost on someone who thinks they would be watching a Crown Court jury trial.”
“There will be cases of significant importance to which the public will be aware of through the media and will follow, but the issues and the backdrop to the hearings need to be understood to gain a real appreciation of what is being argued.”