Television cameras will be allowed into criminal trials for the first time

TV cameras will be allowed inside criminal trials for the first time from tomorrow, but they will only be able to film a few minutes of each case.

Coverage will be limited to the judge giving a sentence and explaining the reasons for it, with a temporary delay to avoid the emission of any violent or abusive reaction.

The first televised sentencing, which will make history, will take place at the Old Bailey on Thursday and includes the case of Ben Oliver, 25, who admitted manslaughter after stabbing his grandfather to death.

Viewers will be able to see inside the courtroom for about 30 minutes, but the cameras will be fixed firmly on the judge without seeing the defendant, victims, jurors, lawyers or witnesses.

The delay is to avoid backlash like gangster Kenny Noye, who was convicted of handling some of the £26m stolen Brinks Mat gold bars and told his jury: “I hope you all die of cancer” .

Or football hooligan Matthew Simmons, jailed after a pitch-side clash with Manchester United star Eric Cantona, who charged the court benches and lashed out at the prosecutor who had called for a ban on terraces in addition to his prison sentence.

Only Crown Court proceedings will be televised under the new law change, which was passed in 2020.

Lord Burnett, the Chief Justice, said: “Open justice is important and the conviction of serious criminal cases is something in which there is a legitimate public interest.

“It has always seemed to me that it is a part of the criminal process that can be recorded and broadcast in many cases, but not all, without compromising the administration of justice or the interests of justice.”

The Old Bailey in central London, where Tomorrow’s Case will be filmed, is the scene of many real dramas.

Serial killer the Yorkshire Ripper, the Kray twin gangsters, Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be hanged, were tried – or “caught the rail” in criminal parlance – in the dock defendants of the famous court number one.

Image: Gangster Kenny Noye told his jury: ‘I hope you all die of cancer’

Former cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken was jailed there in 1999 for lying during an earlier libel case and after his disgrace became a priest and prison chaplain.

He said: “I certainly felt very bad when I was being sentenced and I suppose I would have felt even worse if I had known it was being televised. But on the other hand, why shouldn’t I feel worse ?

“The crime has been committed, the guilt has been proven, the sentence is coming, which means that justice is done in the most open and visible way possible, which I think is absolutely right.”

Image: Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain

The photograph was banned from all UK criminal courts after a stolen image of notorious wife killer Dr Crippen standing in the dock at the Old Bailey was published in 1910.

The introduction of the cameras follows a long campaign by major TV news broadcasters, including Sky News.

Courts have always been open to the public, but most have only a few seats available, meaning people have to rely heavily on the eyewitness accounts of court reporters.

The cameras were first authorized in the Supreme Court in 2009 and then in the Court of Appeal four years later.

The head of Sky News, John Ryley, said: “This is a very significant moment for the openness of our courts. It is another step towards transparency in a really serious institution, the judicial system.”

For years, the judiciary opposed courtroom cameras, fearing the distress of victims and witnesses, the temptation for lawyers to show off, the danger of revealing confidential documents and concerns that courts could turn into entertainment theaters.

Cameras were allowed in Scottish courts in 1992 and are allowed in courts around the world to varying degrees, particularly in Australia, South Africa, the Netherlands and Ukraine.

In the United States some judgments are issued in full and often in painful detail.

As for whether that could happen here, the Lord Chief Justice said: “Your question really I think is asking whether I think we’re going to broadcast criminal trials in the same way that it happens in one or two jurisdictions around the world.

“My own, but quite strong, view is that what we see happening around the world illustrates why this can be quite damaging.”

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