DPP Starmer backs televised courts idea

Keir Starmer
Image caption A pilot project in 2004 ended without agreement

The Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales, Keir Starmer, has backed calls for some court proceedings to be televised.

He said cameras would allow the public to see justice, but there would need to be safeguards for vulnerable witnesses.

The top civil judge has previously suggested televising court to increase confidence in the system.

Only the proceedings of the UK Supreme Court can currently be televised.

Mr Starmer told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "There has been a long-standing principle that courts are open to the public, but the public cannot get there.

"Cameras would allow them to see what is going on and to understand the process. It is the modern way of making sure the public actually see justice."

But he acknowledged there would have to be safeguards.

"Cameras should be allowed and the judge should be able to have discretion to order that a particular part of the trial cannot be shown," he said.

"If people saw prosecutors explaining the case and the defence and saw the judge giving the sentence to the individual, they would have much greater faith in what is going on in court."

Pilot scheme

Mr Starmer said while there was not universal agreement on the issue, the balance was now "tipping towards those in favour".

In March, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger said broadcasting some cases could boost public engagement in the court process.

He said judges should have a veto over what could be shown and did not suggest allowing cameras in criminal trials.

The issue had last been raised in 2004, when cameras were allowed to film Court of Appeal cases at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, in a pilot scheme.

The resulting footage was never broadcast and the experiment ended without agreement.

Among the concerns raised at the time was the potential impact that televising proceedings could have on victims and witnesses and, in particular, their willingness to take part in cases that many would already regard as an ordeal.

Another major concern was the potential for an "OJ Simpson effect" where a trial became a media circus.

Cameras are allowed into courts in Scotland under strict conditions, but in practice, very few cases have been televised.

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