Reality TV-style broadcasting of criminals being sentenced comes with risks that need to be guarded against, warns the Bar Council today as the Government looks to make the justice system more open with plans to film Crown Court sentencing.

The Bar Council, which represents all barristers in England and Wales, said the move to televise Crown Court judges delivering sentences in real-life cases was a positive step and went some way to opening up the workings of the justice system to the public. However, the Bar Council urged caution to avoid sentencing becoming a spectator sport.

Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “Open justice gives an insight into our justice system and our courts to the public, many of whom will never personally go to court, but who value justice. This initiative will help people understand the realities of our criminal justice system.

“However, given that it is only the judge’s sentencing remarks that will be televised, the public may well not fully appreciate why a particular sentence has been given without seeing the evidence presented during trial, the mitigating factors and other relevant information, such as probation reports. This is especially the case in a trial where the judge will have seen and heard the victim, the defendant and other witnesses, but the judge’s evaluation of them, may not be clear from the televised hearing. We must guard against unwarranted attacks on judges where the sentence isn’t popular with the public.  ‘Enemies of the People’ type proclamations, where judges have been personally attacked and their independence questioned, simply for doing their job, are completely unacceptable.

“Sentencing must not become an armchair, spectator sport.                                            

“This is an opportunity to showcase how justice is delivered in our country, but the legislation must factor in the particular risks involved in televising the process; we are very keen that more is done to help educate the public on justice and the rule of law as a whole.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. Further information is available from the Bar Council Press Office on 020 7222 2525 and Press@BarCouncil.org.uk.
     
  2. The Bar Council represents barristers in England and Wales. It promotes:
  • The Bar’s high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services
  • Fair access to justice for all
  • The highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and
  • The development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.
     

The General Council of the Bar is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board