The announcement earlier this week that TV cameras would be allowed to film in all England and Wales courtrooms was a move to improve the public’s knowledge of, and confidence in, the justice system.
However, the viewer will be limited to seeing and hearing the verdict, which may not always provide a true context.
Since 2009, highlights from the Supreme Court can be viewed on Sky. Since May 2011, Sky News has broadcast live footage from these trials, though it tends to be very long and very boring if you are not directly involved. In saying this, the broadcasts can attract up to 90,000 viewers.
I am not sure about how much would be learned from the small amount of the trial shown. It also throws up some other questions – should more be shown, would inquests eventually be filmed? Would this lead to whole court cases being shown?
I am unsure how much you would learn about the justice system if you were only to see the sentencing part of a trial, and, at the end of the day, court rooms are open to the public anyway.
Would filming in the courtroom encourage disrespect for the court system and will it draw attention to any flaws in the court room? In which case television cameras are a good thing.
There is also the concern that if this does go further, and we do eventually end up being shown the whole case, will the witnesses play up to the cameras In America, people tend to criticise the filming as cameras can intimidate witnesses and encourage lawyers to put on an almost theatrical performance. Think of the drama shown during the infamous OJ Simpson murder trial.
On the positive side, opening up the courts will give people the opportunity to understand more about how sentencing works while also ‘naming and and-shaming ’the guilty.
A large case shown on the TV would, no doubt, attract the ratings and – I’m sure – I would be tuning in as well.