England Finally Sees Court Move Promised a Decade Ago

Broadcasters hailed 'landmark' moment
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 29, 2022 1:39 AM CDT
After a Very Long Wait, Cameras Enter England's Crown Court
This grab taken from PA Video/Cameras in Court of the first live broadcast of Crown Court proceedings, showing Judge Sarah Munro QC making legal history as she passed sentence, in London, Thursday, July 28, 2022.   (Cameras in Court/PA via AP)

A British judge jailed a man who killed his grandfather for life Thursday in the first crown court sentencing to be televised in Britain, the AP reports. Judge Sarah Munro's remarks were the first to be broadcast live on news channels after a change in law to allow cameras in British crown courts, which deal with serious criminal cases. The legal change was made in 2020, but it was only implemented Thursday because of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. Munro sentenced Ben Oliver, 25, to life in prison with a minimum term of 10 years and eight months for the manslaughter of his 74-year-old grandfather. The case was heard at the Central Criminal Court in London, which routinely hears the country's most high-profile cases including murders and terrorism trials.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the move will help the public better understand the decisions judges make in complex criminal cases. “Opening up the courtroom to cameras to film the sentencing of some of the country’s most serious offenders will improve transparency and reinforce confidence in the justice system," Raab said in a statement. Under the change in the law, crown court judges can be filmed delivering their sentencing remarks. Only the judge will be on camera to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses and jurors. Previously court proceedings were only broadcast for certain Court of Appeal cases.

Broadcasters hailed the change as a "landmark moment for open justice." "Court reporting is vital to democracy and the rule of law and this long overdue change is welcomed," said John Battle, chair of the Media Lawyers Association. Reuters reports the move was "first promised a decade ago," and the Guardian notes the BBC, ITN, and Sky News have campaigned for it for more than a decade. (More England stories.)

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