Courts to be opened up to TV cameras and Twitter



A judge-led group appointed by the lord president Lord Gill to review the current policy on the recording and broadcasting of proceedings and the use of live text-based communications from Scottish courts has recommended that live broadcasting of certain court cases should be permitted as well the use of Twitter.

The review group, chaired by Lady Dorrian (pictured), has made a series of recommendations following a public consultation exercise, to which 17 individuals and organisations responded.

In summary, the report recommends the following:

  • Filming of civil and criminal appeals, and legal debates in civil first instance proceedings, such as judicial review or procedure roll hearings, should be allowed for live transmission. Subsequent news broadcasting and documentary film-making should be allowed subject to clear and comprehensive guidelines.
  • The court should allow criminal trials to be filmed for documentary purposes in certain circumstances, subject to the safeguards referred to in the report. Cases involving children, sexual offences and vulnerable witnesses should not be filmed.
  • No live transmission or filming for subsequent news broadcast should be allowed for criminal first instance business or for civil proceedings involving witnesses.
  • For subsequent news broadcasts, the delivery of sentencing remarks of the judge should be permissible, with filming focused only on the sentencing judge.
  • Filming of criminal trials for live transmission should not be allowed.
  • In civil cases at first instance, filming for documentary purposes only should be allowed, but should exclude certain groups such as family cases and those involving asylum seekers.
  • A structured approach to considering applications to film.
  • All filming should be subject to robust, clear and comprehensive guidelines.
  • Journalists who register in advance with the Scottish Court Service should be permitted the use of live text-based communications such as Twitter from court, subject to guidelines which will be issued in due course.

Lord Gill said: “I am grateful to Lady Dorrian and her group for having carried out this exercise so thoroughly.

“These well-considered recommendations have the support of the judges. I accept all of the recommendations.

“They are entirely appropriate in the contemporary world. My office will now prepare guidance on the implementation of Lady Dorrian’s report.”

In response to the news, James Wolffe, QC, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “In keeping with his vision of an open and accessible justice system – a vision which I share - the Lord President has made an important announcement about televising the Courts.

“While there must be safeguards to protect the interests of justice, public understanding of the work of the courts – which is fundamental to our democracy – will be enhanced by these proposals, and I welcome them.”

Download the review here.