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Cameras allowed in Court of Appeal

Source BBC News@

Camera monitors at the Court of AppealA video journalist will operate a time-delay system on images from proceedings

TV cameras are to be allowed to record proceedings in one of the highest courts in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice has announced.

Filming will be allowed at the Court of Appeal for the first time from Thursday following a partial lifting of the long-standing ban on cameras in court.

Senior judges and major broadcasters welcomed the move, which the head of BBC News said was a "landmark moment".

Cameras may eventually be allowed in crown courts and magistrates' courts.

Legal argument

Cameras have been installed in five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice in London after years of campaigning by the BBC, ITN, Press Association and Sky News.


There has always been something of an "open justice" disconnect between the fact that any member of the public can go and sit in a court but the court's proceedings could not be seen by the wider public watching on television.

However, the cause of cameras in court was not helped by high-profile televised trials abroad, like the sometimes unedifying one of OJ Simpson in America in 1994. It sparked fears of lawyers, judges and even witnesses "showboating" for the cameras, and television coverage focusing on the salacious details of a case at the expense of the evidence as a whole.

The judiciary here has always been particularly concerned that nothing was done that might discourage victims, witnesses and jurors - those vital "cogs" in the justice system that ensure it functions - from taking part in cases. That is why the experiment is being limited initially to the Court of Appeal and is subject to strict limitations.

It marks both an historic change and a cautious first step. But England and Wales remains many years away from a full "OJ Simpson-style" televised criminal trial.

Filming has been banned in courts - with the exception of the UK Supreme Court - since the Criminal Justice Act 1925.

Lawyers' arguments and judges' comments will be allowed to be shown - but defendants, witnesses and victims will not. Only one courtroom will be covered a day.

The most senior judge in England and Wales, Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, said: "My fellow judges and I welcome the start of broadcasting from the Court of Appeal.

"The Court of Appeal has, of course, been open to the public and to journalists for a long time.

"The change in the law which is now coming into force will permit the recording and broadcasting of the proceedings of the Court of Appeal.

"This will help a wider audience to understand and see for themselves how the Court of Appeal goes about its work."

Safeguards, including a time-delay system operated by a specialist video journalist, will be in place to protect normal court restrictions - such as contempt of court - and broadcasting regulations.

In cases of appeals against conviction where there could eventually be a re-trial, the footage would only be aired once the case was concluded.

BBC director of news and current affairs James Harding said: "This is a landmark moment for justice and journalism.

"It is a significant step on the way to helping millions of viewers gain a greater understanding of how our judicial system works."

ITN chief executive John Hardie said filming in courts would be "for the benefit of open justice and democracy".

John Ryley, head of Sky News, said: "Seeing justice being done will no longer be restricted to those members of the public who have the opportunity and time to go to court."

Press Association chief executive Clive Marshall said the move was a "significant moment in news reporting".

Footage can be used for news and current affairs but not in other contexts such as comedy, entertainment or advertising.

Courts minister Shailesh Vara said: "We are clear that justice must be seen to be done and people will now have the opportunity to see that process with their own eyes."

In Scotland, broadcasters have been able to apply to televise court proceedings since 1992 but this rarely happens.

Scotland's most senior judge, Lord Gill, has announced the policy will be reviewed to take account of changes in technology.

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