06 Sep, 2011

The Bar Council and Criminal Bar Association voice qualified support for courtroom cameras



The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents criminal barristers, have voiced a cautious welcome to recent proposals to allow film cameras into courtrooms for sentencing remarks.


With the Prime Minister expected to announce moves to allow recording and transmitting sentencing remarks from courts, Peter Lodder QC, Chairman of the Bar Council, said: “The Bar is well aware of the increasing dominance of the broadcast and internet-based media in public life, and we offer a qualified welcome to these proposals. It is vital that the judiciary is consulted and that the welfare of victims, witnesses and jury members is taken into account. Any broadcasts must be in the public interest and in the interests of justice.


“Public trust in the criminal justice system may be enhanced by the broadcasting of sentencing remarks. All sentencing decisions are explained fully, but the full extent of the judge’s remarks is often unreported.”


Max Hill QC, Chair of the CBA, said: “Criminal barristers have nothing to fear from increased public scrutiny, which can only demonstrate the quality and integrity of our profession.


“We do, however, have reservations about the potential broadcast of the trial process itself. Extracts shown in isolation may give a biased impression of a long criminal trial in which the jury have patiently listened to weeks or months of evidence from both the prosecution and defence. We must be cautious about placing any extra pressure on victims and witnesses, or exposing jury members to undue external influence.”


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