Since 31 October 2013, the Court of Appeal has been able to broadcast live, pursuant to section 32 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Today saw the televised appeal against sentence of Mairead Philpott at Nottingham Crown Court, the first time proceedings have been broadcast outside of London.
With five courtrooms at the Royal Courts of Justice specially prepared for live broadcasts (with the consent of all parties), it is possible to view advocates’ submissions, the judges’ summing up and decision, and for criminal cases – sentencing comments, although the parties, jurors and witnesses will not be filmed.
Since 16 May 2011 it has also been possible to view Supreme Court hearings via the internet between the Court’s hours of 10:30am and 4pm.
Sky News is keen to point out that where more than one case is being heard at the Supreme Court, “cases of greater public interest” will be selected for transmission. Cases involving issues of privacy will not be broadcast and sensitive matters may be blocked out or not filmed.
Under the new legislation, the Lord Chancellor is given the power to depart from the general rule which bans filming in the English Courts. Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 prohibit sound and image recording from the English Courts.
Baroness Kennedy QC, writing in the Guardian has expressed her concerns at the move to broadcasting in the Courts stating:
“The public and press galleries enable members of the public, families and friends of those involved, and the media to witness what takes place and ensure fair play. Transparency does not mean the whole country has to see highlights like the goals in a football match. Justice is a very important part of our democracy and we have to handle it with care.”
Michael Mansfield QC however welcomes the change:
“You have to remember justice is supposed to be public. It is public. You can walk in there today. The problem is that doesn’t reach a wide enough audience and we’re also subject to the editorial delights of various newspapers as to what they want to report.”
Lights, camera, action!
A link to Sky News’ Supreme Court live stream can be found here: http://news.sky.com/info/supreme-court
A link to the BBC’s Court of Appeal live stream can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24756186