The televising of cases heard in the Court of Appeal, while perhaps seen as somewhat novel, should be the next big step forward in the modernization of the court system. For many its workings appear anachronistic and impenetrable, with processes and customs that are difficult to understand. Opening up the courts to television, beginning with the Court of Appeal, this should begin to change – if it is done right. But this will not be easy, given the strict limitations that broadcasters will have to operate within and, some might say, what they have to work with – hence media training for Judges.
Judges are often regarded as being somewhat fuddy-duddy and out of touch with the common man and the modern age. This unfair characterisation is mainly due to media reporting of the very occasional criminal case where a puzzled judge will ask questions often about new technology or contemporary culture. I doubt we will be seeing much of that on our televisions, entertaining though it might be and tempting for broadcasters to air.
In many ways broadcast access to the courts is reminiscent of what happened in Parliament decades ago. There were many skeptics at the time but now live broadcasts of debates – and the weekly spectacle of Prime Minister’s questions – is an entirely normal part of political news reporting. The same ought to be the case, eventually, for the courts.
In the US and parts of Europe, televised hearings have been the norm for many years. While we frequently see footage of major cases abroad, it is odd and old-fashioned for the UK courts to remain out of bounds to broadcasters. Away from the initial novelty of allowing cameras in, it is vitally important that the processes behind British justice are seen and better understood by the public – both in criminal and civil cases.
I would like to see wider access granted for broadcasters, perhaps extending to prominent civil cases that are of interest to the public. Similarly, I don’t see why cameras should be banned from the main hall in the High Court, which to my mind is a perfect setting for a broadcast interview after a high profile case. Today’s move in allowing cameras limited access is very welcome and hopefully a sign of things to come.