Cameras in court, at last
Judge’s sentencing remarks to be broadcast tomorrow, six years after reform first promised
A judge’s sentencing remarks will be broadcast live tomorrow, more than six years after the Ministry of Justice announced plans to allow limited broadcasting from the Crown Court.
This will be the first broadcast from a criminal trial in England and Wales. Some appeal hearings in England and Wales have been televised for the past nine years. Scottish courts have allowed criminal cases to be broadcast with the consent of all concerned and the Supreme Court has live-streamed its proceedings since 2009.
In March 2016 , the then justice minister Shailesh Vara announced that cameras would be able to record the sentencing remarks of nominated senior judges in eight criminal courts across England and Wales as part of a not-for-broadcast pilot.
The first recordings were made at the Old Bailey exactly six years ago. At that time, it was reported that trials would be broadcast “soon”.
In January 2020, the then justice secretary Robert Buckland announced that the pilot had been successful and legislation would be laid before parliament.
That legislation took effect in June 2020.
Today, the Ministry of Justice has announced that, subject to the agreement of Judge Munro QC, her sentencing remarks will be broadcast from the Old Bailey tomorrow.
She is to sentence Ben Oliver, 25, for the manslaughter of his 74-year-old grandfather David Oliver in Mottingham, south London, on 19 January 2021. The defendant admitted manslaughter due to diminished responsibility and was cleared of murder after a trial.
The hearing will begin at 10am with submissions on sentencing. These will not be broadcast. The judge will then be seen (in a head-and-shoulders shot) addressing the defendant. Nothing else will be seen or heard except by those in court.
The sentencing remarks of all recorded cases will be hosted by Sky News on a dedicated YouTube channel.
Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, said today:
Opening up the courtroom to cameras to film the sentencing of some the country’s most serious offenders will improve transparency and reinforce confidence in the justice system.
The public will now be able to see justice handed down, helping them understand better the complex decisions judges make.
Although this falls far short of what journalists have campaigned for during the past decade and more, today’s announcement has been widely welcomed by the UK’s news broadcasters.
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