The âcourtroom dramaâ? is set for a reality TV makeover – coalition style – as cameras will earn the right to broadcast judgeâs verdicts live from court.
The move, first proposed in September last year and with the help of David Cameron, has now been confirmed by the Ministry of Justice and is designed to promote the concept of âopen justiceâ?. The ban – which has existed since 1925 (four years before the first TV broadcast) – is expected to be revoked in May when the Queen makes her summer speech.
Kenneth Clarke, justice secretary, has said: âThe Government and judiciary are determined to improve transparency and public understanding of court through allowing court broadcasting. We believe television has a role in increasing public confidence in the justice system.â?
Reports by The Telegraph so far suggest that broadcasters will only be allowed to film the judgeâs verdict, and will not be allowed to film opening or closing statements by lawyers, or the testimonies of witnesses.
This has all come about because of a campaign by broadcasters, including the BBC, ITN and Sky News. In a joint letter, they said: âThe ability to witness justice in action, in the public gallery, is a fundamental freedom. Television will make the public gallery open to all.â?
But the move has not been uncontested in its progression through the corridors of Whitehall. Some critics have spoken of the undesirable side effect of turning court proceedings into some kind of TV spectacle. Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has been particularly vocal, stating that there should still be a âbig question markâ? over allowing TV cameras into court.
As the issue was discussed in September, he warned: “The issue that then arises is, is this going to help public understanding or might it contribute to the whole thing being turned into a piece of theatre, which might also be undesirable?
“Clearly filming people actually being sentenced is likely to be undesirable as it would probably encourage theatricals.”
The question is: how far will the camera crews push it? Before we know it there could be âhot or notâ? courtroom outfit analysis and a spin-off series about life behind-the-scenes for a courtroom clerk. Is that a good thing for the concept of âopen justiceâ? or a gross invasion of our privacy?…