Article England and Wales: News Broadcasters Permitted to Film Crown Court Sentencing Remarks for First Time

July 28, 2022, marked a moment of legal history in England and Wales when, for the first time, sentencing remarks from a judge in the Crown Court were broadcast on news channels. The case involved a 25-year-old man who pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his grandfather. The law prohibiting filming and recording audio in court was changed in 2020 with the Lord Chancellor’s issuance of the Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020, but the order’s implementation was delayed due to the pandemic.

Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 provides that it is an offense to film in court, and section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 provides that it is contempt of court to record sound in court, unless the court has granted permission for these activities. These offenses will not apply if the conditions in the Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020 are met.

To protect the privacy of the victims, witnesses, and jury in the case, the order allows the recording of only the judge making sentencing remarks in open court. The broadcast may occur only with the written permission of the judge, who may impose any conditions. The broadcast may not breach any reporting restrictions on the case. The order further requires that any report or presentation that includes the broadcast of sentencing remarks “be fair and accurate having regard to— (a) the overall content of the report or presentation; and (b) the context in which the broadcast is presented.”

The order additionally provides that sentencing remarks must not be used for party political broadcasts, light entertainment, satire, or most advertisements and promotions.

This change in law allows the recording of sentencing remarks in some of the country’s most famous courts, including the central criminal court, commonly referred to as the Old Bailey, which hears a number of high profile murder and terrorism cases. The deputy prime minister has welcomed the move, stating that “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.”

The move is part of the government’s reform of the courts to help increase access to justice. Other measures include the distribution of “technology to facilitate thousands of remote hearings and the use of video-recorded evidence for victims of rape and sexual offences.”

Clare Feikert-Ahalt, Law Library of Congress
November ?, 2022

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England and Wales: News Broadcasters Permitted to Film Crown Court Sentencing Remarks for First Time. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-01/england-and-wales-news-broadcasters-permitted-to-film-crown-court-sentencing-remarks-for-first-time/.

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(2022) England and Wales: News Broadcasters Permitted to Film Crown Court Sentencing Remarks for First Time. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-01/england-and-wales-news-broadcasters-permitted-to-film-crown-court-sentencing-remarks-for-first-time/.

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England and Wales: News Broadcasters Permitted to Film Crown Court Sentencing Remarks for First Time. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-11-01/england-and-wales-news-broadcasters-permitted-to-film-crown-court-sentencing-remarks-for-first-time/>.