Let the cameras in

In 1910, a photograph of Dr Hawley Crippen in the dock at Bow Street
Magistrates’ Court “outraged public sensibilities” to such an extent
that the Criminal Justice Act was formulated to ban all cameras in the
country’s courts.

And even though it predated the invention of
the television camera by more than a decade, the ban remains. Just two
years ago, for example, a man was fined £250 for snapping a picture of
his friend using his mobile phone inside Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court. He
wanted to send it to the friend’s wife, he explained, who hadn’t seen
her husband for a while.

But now, a breakthrough seems imminent.

A
pilot scheme in the Court of Appeal, in which 24 cases were recorded by
cameras, has been a great success, broadcasters say. They have sent a
positive report to the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

And
they believe Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, will use it to lift
restrictions on filming appeals in the Royal Courts of Justice.

“After
watching the first television pictures of an English court hearing ever
recorded, I was convinced I had seen the future,” said the Telegraph’s
legal editor Joshua Rosenberg. “And it worked.”

For the sake of open justice, nearly a century after that fateful snap of a wife murderer, let’s hope Lord Falconer agrees.

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