Scottish courts to reconsider camera ban

The Scottish judiciary is re-examining guidelines to allow judges’ sentencing statements in court to be filmed.

The current guidelines, set out by Lord Hope in 1996, prohibit the use of cameras in court in order to avoid threatening the administration of justice.

But the public information officer for the Scottish judiciary, Elizabeth Cutting – who already issues printed and electronic statements from cerain cases to the media – has said that filming sentences is the logical next step in a digital age.

‘The current guidelines are fraught with problems and need to be looked at – currently to film in camera requires the permission of every person in the court room,’said Cutting.

‘I do not believe that filming a judge delivering a sentencing statement would be a threat to the administration of justice.

‘The guidelines were written at a time when technology was not as developed as it is now. They now need to take into consideration how much easier it would be to have a camera in court, and the circumstances under which it would be appropriate.”

Cutting said she believes issuing copies of sentencing statements to the media has improved court reporting in Scotland.

‘The next logical step would be to film the judge,’she said. ‘Parts of it could be run on news sites. By issuing the statements to editors and journalists, there is no room for manipulation of what a judge has said.

‘Feedback from the media has been fantastic. If they hadn’t had journalists in court every day of the case, they won’t have been able to keep up.

‘I certainly issue statements a lot more here in Scotland and this has invariably led to more accurate reporting.”

Cutting said the judiciary in Scotland made much more use of the facility than in England and Wales.

The chief public information officer at the Judicial Communications Office for England and Wales, Peter Farr, said: ‘We would certainly like to see the service expanded, and the indication is that the judges are making use of this facility – but it is not done as systematically as the judiciary in Scotland.’The Ministry of Justice released a consultation paper in 2004 in England and Wales about broadcasting in the courts, and held a trial period where cameras were allowed into an appeal court on the provision that the footage was not made public.

An MoJ spokeswoman said: ‘Responsibility now rests with Jack Straw as Secretary of State. He will have to go back and look at the policy implications and legal ramifications. It is being reviewed.”

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