By DebbieH 21 Aug 2018 7 min read

Barristers react to Victims’ Commissioner’s claim cameras in court will help curb ‘aggressive’ cross-examination

Members of the bar have hit back at claims that bringing cameras into courtrooms could help curb “aggressive barristers”.

According to Legal Cheek, Baroness Newlove said that filming court proceedings “might change the behaviours of some of the key participants, such as aggressive barristers or defendants who show contempt for the justice process.”

Victims’ Commissioner Newlove told The Telegraph that the process must be “handled with care and sensitivity”, but could ultimately improve the justice system.

In opposition, anonymous barrister CrimeGirl responded to Newlove’s comments, suggesting the conservative peer had perhaps “been watching too many television dramas.” She told Legal Cheek:

“Perpetuating this awful myth puts would-be complainants off giving statements and attending trial, thus by making comments such as these the Victims’ Commissioner only harms her own cause.”

As for the introduction of filming in courts, she warned that it could have a negative effect, with some “mistaking the process for Jeremy Kyle“. CrimeGirl, as she’s known on Twitter, continued:

“Any filming would need to be carefully thought out so as not to sensationalise what is already an emotionally charged and difficult process that deserves to be treated with the utmost dignity and sensitivity.”

Criminal barrister at London’s 9 Bedford Row Max Hardy agreed.

“It is hard to see how cameras in court will tame barristers. If it’s supposed to shame them into mending their ways it rather overlooks the fact that they have a live audience of 12 members of the public actually in the room assessing their every utterance. The reality is that cases involving the most vulnerable witnesses will likely never be televised for the obvious reason that it is hard to conceive of a greater obstacle to a witness being put at their ease.”

Nine St John Street criminal barrister Jaime Hamilton gave a similar view. Citing the raft of measures already in place to ensure barristers conduct themselves appropriately in court, he told Legal Cheek.

“Effective management of the trial process by the judge, continued specialist training of advocates and ensuring suitably trained advocates undertake the cases are the way to maintain the courtroom as a place for the rigorous yet courteous and sensitive examination of witnesses.”

Despite Newlove’s comments, the government has already introduced TV cameras into a number of top courts as part of a growing push for transparency.

Last year, a pilot saw filming equipment installed at eight courts in England and Wales, including the Old Bailey. The test-run filmed the sentencing remarks made by judges, but the footage was never broadcast. Meanwhile, proceedings at the Court of Appeal have been filmed since 2013 and the Supreme Court since it was established in 2009.