Cameras in court: Falconer's decision expected next week

By Caitlin Pike

Broadcasters are hoping history will be made next week when the
filming of court proceedings could be approved for the first time by
the Lord Chancellor.

Lord Falconer is considering a series of options following a pilot scheme which allowed cameras into the Court of Appeal.

John
Battle, head of compliance at ITN said: “The Lord Chancellor could do
nothing and the ban on cameras in courts would stay in place; he could
allow cameras to film in appeal courts for cases that do not have a
jury; or the ban could be repealed for other courts such as trial
courts.”

ITN, BBC, ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and Five jointly submitted
a report “Televising the Courts” to the Department of Constitutional
Affairs, with their conclusions on the pilot.

It said: “The
broadcasters believe the case for repealing the ban on recording and
broadcasting of court proceedings is very strong and the time is now
right to allow cameras into court. A failure to address this issue now
and to change the law would really be a lost opportunity.”

The
pilot, funded entirely by the broadcasters, was set up to test how
cameras worked in practice in the courtroom and to produce a tape with
examples of how footage of proceedings would be used in reporting the
courts.

It was carried out in line with a strict protocol drafted
by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. When the Lord Chancellor
unveiled the Broadcasting Courts consultation paper last year, he made
it clear that he was concerned at the impact of filming on witnesses,
victims and jurors in criminal cases.

He said: “No change to make
our courts more open and accessible should worsen or jeopardise in any
way the position of witnesses and victims or make witnesses reluctant
to appear.

Cameras in the courtroom would be a big step. We have to make sure that any such step would benefit justice, not burden it.”

Other
concerns over filming in courts include creating a media circus
aroundcases and that lawyers may play up to the cameras, compromising
their work.

Broadcasters claim these concerns are unfounded.
Their report said: “Broadcasters are acutely aware of the potential
effects that showing footage can have. The protection of vulnerable
witnesses and victims and their families is vital and this is
understood by the broadcasters. Showing how the courts work could mean
more people will come forward as witnesses, not less. The contention
cameras would encourage lawyers to ‘grandstand’ was not borne out by
the pilot.”

The Lord Chancellor could make his decision by the end of next week.

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