Plans announced to televise some UK court cases
Plans have recently been unveiled in the UK to televise some of their court cases. Senior judge, Sir Terence Etherton, alongside other high profile names in the justice system, have said that court proceedings should be televised in order to help the public understand complicated cases and see justice in action.
Current UK Rules
While televised court cases are common in the US, the UK does not allow TV cameras in court. While court cases in the UK do attract large amounts of attention, the public cannot see what is going on inside, hearing the verdict and details of the case through journalists outside the courtroom or other forms of media documenting the trial, whether cases involving Chester solicitors or any others in the UK.
Due to this ban on cameras, many believe that the UK suffers a public misunderstanding of what actually happens in court and the criminal processes. Now, that looks set to change, as Sir Terence Etherton claims he has been authorised by the Lord Chancellor to stream some cases via a Youtube channel which can be accessed on the judiciary website.
The example was used of Noel Conway who was terminally ill and fought for the right to have assisted dying. Sir Etherton argues that sensitive cases such as these need to be reported correctly, and he hopes that the Court of Appeal could summarize their decisions to the public with an explanation and a media statement; something the public rarely receives.
The hope is that it will change behaviours of those who abuse the court system and give the public a greater understanding of how the process works. Sir Etherton, and other supporters of the change, want to let the public see judges at work.
There would still need to be protocols that are followed during the televising of trials. The jury members could not be shown and defendants faces would not be shown unless they were giving evidence from the witness stand.
It’s thought that the judge would also have full discretion over what could and couldn’t be shown on television. Vulnerable witnesses or anyone who objected to the cameras for good reason would be exempt from being filmed, likewise anyone whose being shown on TV might put them in danger.
The public response towards televising select cases in the UK has been generally positive. The government’s victims’ commissioner believe the move is a good thing as it may help improve the justice system if key players, such as judges and barristers, know they are being scrutinised.
Others believe that it would be advantageous when it comes to appealing wrongful convictions. Appellate courts would not be able to defer the issue back to the trial judge for the reason of them not having seen the witness. Instead, they could watch the court case back and analyse the tone and body language used by key members, something you cannot get from a simple transcript.
However, there are others who claim that trials should be a private affair, referring to America’s OJ Simpson case which was perceived as total chaos in the UK. Others on the other hand, find trials fascinating and argue that had the public been able to see the trials of high-profile figures such as Jeremy Thorpe or Clive Ponting, they would know and understand a huge amount more about the UK’s justice system.