Televised sentencing at Crown Court could be expanded to more senior judges

A year has passed since the first sentencing remarks were broadcast from the Old Bailey (Jonathan Brady/PA)
A year has passed since the first sentencing remarks were broadcast from the Old Bailey (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Plans to ensure sentencing in the most serious criminal cases can be broadcast are being consulted on by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

A proposed law change would allow for televised sentencing in the Crown Court to be expanded so that it covers judges who also sit in the Court of Appeal but who are presiding over particularly serious or complicated cases in the Crown Court.

Under the current Crown Court (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020, High Court and Senior Circuit judges are permitted to be filmed in the Crown Court as they hand out sentences in criminal cases.

According to the MoJ, expanding the regulations to cover more senior judges would have allowed the sentencing hearing for former Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens to be broadcast after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Sarah Everard.

The sentencing in that case was delivered by Lord Justice Fulford, then a Lord Justice of Appeal.

The Government is running a consultation on open justice which it says could see permission granted for TV cameras to film sentencing in the Crown Court when carried out by such senior judges.

A televised sentencing for Couzens did occur for separate offences of indecent exposure, which he committed prior to the killing of Sarah Everard but was sentenced to after his murder conviction. 

Under the current rules, authorised broadcasters – Sky, BBC, ITN and the PA news agency – must apply to broadcast the sentencing remarks and requests are decided by the judge in each case.

The MoJ said the consultation is aimed at boosting public understanding of how criminal justice is delivered in England and Wales.

Friday marks a year since the first sentencing remarks were broadcast from the Old Bailey.

The sentencing of 33 offenders in the Crown Court have been broadcast since the law change, the MoJ said.

Justice minister Mike Freer said: “Today marks one year since this landmark change opened up the Crown Court to television cameras, seeing them broadcast judges’ sentencing remarks for some of the most serious offenders for the first time.

“It has allowed the public to see justice being done in their courts and to understand the complex decisions judges make, building confidence in the justice system.”

Head of legal and compliance at ITN, John Battle, said: “Filming of sentencing has been a great success and has swiftly become the norm. It has brought public engagement with the justice system to a whole new level.”