There has been much discussion over the past few years, led unsurprisingly by a coalition of broadcasters (BBC, SKY & ITV), over the arcane rules regarding the visual reporting of British criminal trials. Whilst the print media are allowed access to report for their readers, the broadcast media were banned from having cameras broadcasting from within a court building.


So, the news bulletins have been forced to rely on still sketches drawn from the memory of court-room accredited sketch artists. Perhaps even more surprising, these artists have to take a mental picture of their surroundings within the court room, such as the look of the judge, defendant, witnesses and barristers, and reproduce this picture with crayons outside the court room – no drawing is allowed inside the court! No wonder the broadcasters want the rules changed.

So the Judges allowed a test trial to be broadcast (after 3 years of negotiation) from a murder trial in Scotland that lasted 6 weeks and had 70 witnesses. This was distilled into a 2 hour programme that was broadcast for the first time on British TV last week. The reviews were glowing, certainly as to the way the footage was shot and edited to engage the viewer and build suspense as we got closer to the jury’s verdict. However, respected criminal law partner Michael Caplan QC from Kingsley Napley LLP, joined Bell Yard in sounding a note of caution for future trial reporting. Our article, first printed in the legal publication – Solicitors Journal – can be read here in full.