100-year-old ban on courtroom photography to be overturned?

 Scaled of justice and a gavel with union jack flag in background
Scaled of justice and a gavel with union jack flag in background

For the last 100 years, it has been against the law to take photos inside a courthouse in the United Kingdom. The only visual documentation allowed was a courtroom sketch, which shows an artist's interpretation of what unfolds, but the photography ban could soon be lifted in an attempt to make the justice system more transparent.

Last year, a criminal trial was televised for the first time under new English laws that allowed TV cameras to film the verdict and explanation. It took place at the Old Bailey on August 04 for the sentencing of Ben Oliver, who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter after stabbing his grandfather to death. Now the Ministry of Justice is addressing whether the ban on photography and sound recording is still relevant in a world where people are so dependent on what the media shares.

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"Most court sittings take place when people are at work, and consequently, many people base their views of the court system on dramatized portrayals in television or films," said the Ministry of Justice. "The broadcast media can play a part in opening up the courts to the public, demystifying the criminal justice process, and increasing understanding of sentencing."

In order for people to have a better understanding of what happens in court, rather than basing their facts on what they see on TV, it has been suggested that all open court hearings should allow for live streaming and remote observation, according to the The Law Society Gazette.

"Recognising the challenging fiscal environment, this exercise will help us target our limited resources where they can have the biggest impact," said Mike Free, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Justice, on the GOV.UK website.

"If you are interested, then we would be delighted to hear from you, and I encourage you to respond. It is important that we hear from a wide range of views to inform the government’s future strategy on this important area."

While the idea of being able to watch real-life court trials might seem a little bit like a murder mystery series, it will go a long way in making people put more faith in the justice system and help prevent rumors occurring about what happens behind closed doors. I for one would be very interested to watch a live stream of high-profile cases so I can better understand and come to a conclusion about the conviction myself.

If you're in the UK, you can have your say in the public open consultation.