The majority of barristers are in favour of the Justice Secretary’s plans to lift the ban on filming in courts provided there are safeguards in place for witnesses and jurors, a study has found
Almost two in three barristers agree that cameras should be allowed into courts for appeals and criminal trials in England and Wales, a survey of more than 700 barristers conducted by The Times and Bar Council showed.
According to The Times, when asked whether cameras should be allowed in criminal trials, 40 per cent of barristers said no; 24 per cent said yes and not only for sentencing remarks; 21 per cent said yes but not showing jurors or witnesses; and 9 per cent said yes but not showing jurors.
Earlier this year Kenneth Clarke announced he will overturn the 85-year ban on filming in courts as part of “unprecedented plans to improve transparency”.
It will be the first time cameras have been allowed in courts other than the Supreme Court since filming was banned by the Criminal Justice Act 1925.
Only judges’ remarks will be shown – not those of victims, witnesses, offenders or jurors.
Peter Lodder, QC, chairman of the Bar, said: “I am not surprised by the findings of the survey. However it endorses the importance of ensuring that witnesses, who already find giving evidence an ordeal are protected.
“People are unnerved about going to court. If they feel that by going to court they are also going to be filmed, there is a significant risk that they will not go at all.”
He added: “Public trust in the criminal justice system may be enhanced by the broadcasting of sentencing remarks. All sentencing decisions are explained fully, but the full extent of the judge’s remarks is often unreported.”
Clarke said in September that a consultation process involving the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge would take place to ensure the move “does not hinder the administration of justice and that it protects victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors”.
But Tory MP Roger Gale said it risked turning justice into a reality show and providing a platform for “eccentric” legal professionals.