Northern Ireland courts to trial filming of judgments

The filming of court judgments is to be trialled in Northern Ireland.

The delivery of judgments by the Court of Appeal will be filmed but not broadcast during the pilot scheme which starts on Friday.

It is aimed to give the judiciary and broadcasters a better understanding of the technical challenges and feasibility of filming proceedings should the current prohibition on broadcasting in courts be removed.

The filming will be carried out by broadcasters PA Media, BBC NI, UTV, Sky News and ITN who have experience of filming proceedings in the Court of Appeal and crown courts in England and Wales.

New legal year in NI
Dame Siobhan Keegan, Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, welcomed the pilot scheme (PA)

“The principle of open justice is of fundamental importance,” she said.

“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.”

A spokesperson for the broadcasters described the pilot as 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,” they said.

Justice Minister Naomi Long also welcomed the pilot scheme as “an important step forward in opening up our courts and engendering a better understanding of the legal system here”.

Stormont Assembly
Justice Minister Naomi Long said ‘allowing broadcasting in courts would increase transparency’ (PA)

“Broadcasting in courts can already happen in England, Scotland and Wales in certain circumstances. Any future decision to introduce this in Northern Ireland would require legislative changes to enable it to become embedded in the court process.”

Ms Long added: “I look forward to seeing the evaluation of the pilot scheme and am open to a discussion on any recommendations that might be brought forward.

“Allowing broadcasting in courts would increase transparency and enable the public to view decisions being made by the judiciary in Northern Ireland. This can only be a good thing.”

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