TV Cameras Coming to English Criminal Courts

In Britain, filming has been authorized in the Supreme Court since it was created in 2009, and in some English and Welsh Court of Appeal cases since 2013. Some courts in Scotland, which has a separate legal system, have invited applications to televise some proceedings since 1992, though filming has been rare in practice.

Copies of sentences in English and Welsh criminal cases are available online, but they are often dozens of pages long and not easily accessible to the wider public. Under the new legislation, television and social media producers would most likely edit the soon-to-be-filmed remarks, which can last dozens of minutes, to fit shorter formats on various platforms.

Britain’s top broadcasters have lobbied for the introduction of cameras in courtrooms for years, calling the ban shameful and the reliance on court sketches ludicrous. They welcomed the proposed legislation on Thursday, with BBC’s director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, calling it “a momentous day for transparency in our justice system.”

Yet law experts have warned that context could be missed if the remarks were too heavily edited, and that judges could face threats if they became more public figures.

“If the public see judges’ faces in the living room on television and are able to identify them more readily, then unfortunately they are more likely to be personally attacked,” Amanda Pinto, the chairman of the Bar Council, which represents British lawyers, told the BBC.

British commentators also wondered on Thursday if the introduction of cameras would turn trials into sensational drama, citing the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson in Los Angeles, which attracted live television audiences in the millions.

Mr. Buckland, the justice secretary, said in an interview with the British broadcaster TalkRadio that the filmed remarks would not amount to entertainment, but to information. He added that they would be available with a 10-second delay.

“The mission is to explain,” Mr. Buckland said.

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