Northern Ireland to pilot TV cameras in courtrooms

Northern Ireland to pilot TV cameras in courtrooms

Dame Siobhan Keegan

Broadcasters will be allowed to film — but not air — the handing-down of judgments in Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal as part of a pilot programme commencing today.

While there is a long-standing prohibition on the filming of court proceedings in Northern Ireland under law, the Lady Chief Justice has advocated for legislation to put the jurisdiction on  similar legal footing as England and Wales and Scotland.

The pilot, which permits local broadcasters to film the Court of Appeal delivering judgments in important cases, will give the judiciary and broadcasters a better understanding of the technical challenges and feasibility of filming proceedings should the prohibition be removed.

Echoing her comments last September, the Lady Chief Justice, Dame Siobhan Keegan, said: “The principle of open justice is of fundamental importance.

“I have long thought that the broadcasting of our senior courts would represent a very positive step in promoting open justice, allowing greater transparency and helping the public to better understand the complex decisions that judges make.”

The pilot is subject to a protocol and filming will be restricted to the bench only. Members of the legal profession, public and court staff cannot be filmed. The film will not be broadcast or used for any purpose other than to test the process.

The filming will be carried out by the broadcasters BBC NI, UTV, Sky News, ITN and PA Media, who will draw upon the experience of filming courts such as the Court of Appeal and the Crown Court in England and Wales.

A spokesperson for the broadcasters said: “This pilot is a very positive development in terms of the reporting of courts in Northern Ireland.

“More transparency and openness around the justice system can only be a good thing for all our audiences and will help their understanding of this important function in society.”

John Battle KC (Hon), head of legal compliance at ITN, added: “This development is welcomed. Cameras in court have been in place for many years in courts in England, Wales and Scotland and has been viewed as a success in improving public understanding of the legal system and the work of the judiciary.

“We hope this pilot will lead to reforms that allow the public to view the courts in Northern Ireland on television news and online.”

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