Not quite Open Justice, but a step forward?

Not quite Open Justice, but a step forward?


Hacking cctv

We haven’t really covered the ‘Phone Hacking’ trial for the same reason that we didn’t look at the Lee Rigby case whilst it was ongoing. When it is finished, we shall certainly take a longer look at it.

One thing we did look at last year was the televising of the Court of Appeal and whether this could truly be considered to be ‘Open Justice’.

Well, on 14th January 2014 those two issues came together (slightly) with the release of some of the CCTV footage from the Phone Hacking trial. This is not that unusual (although it often happens at the end of a trial), but makes following what is happening in the Old Bailey that little bit easier.

It is also, in this technological age, a pretty straightforward exercise. And, without wishing to sound too critical, just shows how much more could be done to make the criminal courts more accessible to the public.

Another case from the last week shows the way. The Mark Duggan inquest was a model of transparency. If you go on to their website there is almost all of the evidence there to read, along with transcripts of the evidence as it unfolded. That is a brilliant resource, and should be followed by the criminal courts. It is long, long overdue.

Of course, whilst we say ‘the public’ as if this is some disinterested group, you are paying for what happens there and the proceedings are being taken in your name, you have every right to know what is going on.

Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. It is a start, but lets hope it does not falter. When the draft rules for televising of court proceedings were published I contacted the MOJ to ask what consideration was being given to making the material available to other parties, ie other than mainstream media. They replied that this was under discussion. It now appears that only the main news outlets will be allowed access to this material and that they can if they wish charge others for access (or refuse access).

    This is quite worrying. There are States in the USA for example that have contracted out publication of legislation to large publishers who then hold the copyright. A statute book in private hands.

    Anyway, this is the MOJ response in relation to court TV, I suspect the CPS Press Office would be equally as unwilling to make the case footage you refer to available to others.

    Dear Andrew,

    Thank you for your email regarding the sharing of court broadcasts with third party publishers. I understand that you have an interest in incorporating recordings from the Court of Appeal into your reporting, and would like us to clarify what arrangements are in place to allow for the dissemination of recordings to other third party broadcasters.

    The government is committed to increasing transparency within the Justice System, as well as public knowledge and understanding of the Justice System and courts, and one of the ways we aim to do this is through allowing broadcasting from the Court of Appeal in limited circumstances. Those media parties permitted in writing by the Lord Chancellor to film and record in the Court of Appeal have been granted permission to do so on the basis that they will satisfy this objective.

    The media parties permitted to film and record in the Court of Appeal are covering the cost of broadcasting. In turn, the Lord Chancellor has agreed that the government will not seek to profit from any of the material produced. In this way, the government’s policy of transparency can be delivered at no cost to the public.

    Those media parties granted permission to broadcast from the court can use, reproduce, and disseminate the material they record, subject to various requirements designed to protect the interests of justice. This includes sublicensing material to third party organisations. In this way, filming and recordings in the Court of Appeal can be disseminated and made available to third party broadcasters in the same way as normal news footage.

    I understand that you wish video streams of the Court of Appeal to be made available to broadcasters other than those granted permission by the Lord Chancellor. Broadcasters are bearing the cost of broadcasting, and sublicensing the material will allow them to recoup some of their costs. In addition these media parties are already set up to ensure that this material is properly licensed to third parties.

    The government believes that those media parties permitted to broadcast from the Court of Appeal (BBC, ITN, Sky and the Press Association), will reach the largest audience, and will be able to use their established and extensive distribution practice to make these broadcasts widely available for use by third parties. In this way, the government will achieve the primary objective of Court Broadcasting; increased transparency, understanding and confidence in the Justice System.

    I hope that this explanation has been of help to you, and has adequately addressed your interest in sharing broadcasts from the Court of Appeal with third party publishers.

    Kind regards,