Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Clarke to lift court filming ban

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke will overturn an 85-year-old ban on filming in courts but has warned that theatrical displays will not be allowed.

Broadcasters will be allowed to screen footage of judgments in England and Wales for the first time as part of "unprecedented plans to improve transparency", Mr Clarke said.

But critics warned the move risked turning justice into a reality show, providing a platform for "eccentric" legal professionals and creating theatre akin to US TV show Judge Judy.

It will be the first time that cameras have been allowed in courts other than the Supreme Court since filming was banned by the Criminal Justice Act 1925.

Mr Clarke said he wanted to remove the ban "as soon as parliamentary time allows" so cameras could be used to film judgments first in the Court of Appeal and then in the crown courts. Only judges' remarks will be shown - not those of victims, witnesses, offenders or jurors.

A consultation process involving the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge will now take place to ensure the move "does not hinder the administration of justice and that it protects victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors", he said.

"But I am clear that this must not give offenders opportunities for theatrical public display," he added.

However, Tory MP Roger Gale said it risked turning justice into a reality show and providing a platform for "eccentric" legal professionals. Mr Gale, a former TV producer, said screening Parliament had resulted in grandstanding by MPs and a concentration on "juicy" extracts at the expense of less entertaining debates.

"I believe that the televising of the closing speeches in law courts and the passing of sentences will create the same effect as thrusting barristers seek to impress the media with fee-improving performances and the more eccentric members of the judiciary use the TV platform to address the nation," he said.

"The courts are supposed to be a place where justice is done and where it is, by those actually present and listening to the evidence, seen to be done. That must not be allowed to change. This is not about transparency or democracy, it is about television showbusiness and we do not need our law courts to be turned into yet another reality TV show."


From Belfast Telegraph