TV cameras to be allowed into UK criminal courts for first time

Xinhua
Criminal courts in Britain will allow television cameras to broadcast parts of serious cases for the first time under new legislation laid before the House of Commons on Thursday.
Xinhua

Criminal courts in Britain will allow television cameras to broadcast parts of serious cases for the first time under new legislation laid before the House of Commons on Thursday.

National broadcasters, which have led a long campaign for courts to allow cameras, welcomed the move announced by the Ministry of Justice. The first cases are likely to be shown within months, once the new rules are approved.

The new law will allow cameras to broadcast the sentencing remarks of High Court and Senior Circuit judges in some of the most high-profile courts across England and Wales, including Britain's most famous courthouse, the Old Bailey in London.

Currently, broadcasts are allowed in the Supreme Court and certain Court of Appeal cases. Extending this to the Crown Court means the public will be able to hear judges explain the reasons behind their sentences for the most serious offenses, said the MoJ.

Filming will be restricted to sentencing remarks only and no other court user, including victims, witnesses, jurors and court staff, will be filmed. Broadcasters will need to obtain permission from the judiciary in advance.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that the British government, alongside the judiciary, "is committed to improving public understanding of our justice system and allowing cameras into the Crown Court will do just that."

"It will ensure our courts remain open and transparent and allow people to see justice being delivered to the most serious of offenders."

The new legislation follows a successful three-month pilot that allowed not-for-broadcast sentencing remarks to be filmed in eight Crown Courts and has been welcomed by British broadcasters ITN, Sky News and the BBC.

"This is a further step in helping the public to understand the constraints under which judges work and the complexities of many of the biggest criminal cases," Sky News head John Ryley said.

The full sentencing remarks of any case broadcast will also be hosted on a new website to which the public has access.

This move is part of the government's wider court reform and digitalization program, using technology and modern ways of working to increase access to justice for British people, added the MoJ. 

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