Report of the Review of Policy on Recording and Broadcasting of Proceedings in Court, and Use of Live Text-Based Communications

A judge-led group which was appointed by the Lord President to review the current policy on the recording and broadcasting of proceedings and the use of live text-based communications from Scottish courts has published its report.

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

The review, which examined the existing practice in Scotland and other jurisdictions, was carried out in the context of a complete acceptance of the importance of the principle of open justice, recognising however that any steps taken in support of this principle must not pose any risk to the administration of justice. 

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.  

The Lord President, 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.” 

Ends 

Notes to editors 

On 18 October 2012, the Lord President, Lord Gill, appointed a judicially led media review group, whose remit was to review policy on the recording and broadcasting of proceedings in court. This was later extended to include consideration of the use of live, text-based communications (LTBC) from court. 

Guidance on the conditions under which cameras could be allowed in court was previously contained in a practice note issued by Lord President Hope in 1992. These conditions were revised by Lord President Hamilton in 2012. The revised conditions allowed filming to take place without the consent of all parties involved. The production company and broadcaster had to provide an undertaking to the presiding judge that the final broadcast would not identify those who had not consented to the filming. 

The passage of time since guidance was issued, together with the development of social media, the use of instant text-based communication and the broadcasting of proceedings before the UK Supreme Court have all contributed towards a need to review this matter. When filming for documentary purposes has taken place in Scotland, the guidelines have had to be complemented by detailed negotiations as to the precise terms in each case. In appointing this review group, the Lord President considered that a more structured approach was desirable, not least in the interests of consistency. 

The review was chaired by Lady Dorrian. The other members were: Lord Bracadale, Lord Woolman, Sheriff Principal Stephen, and Sheriff Drummond. The group was supported by: Christopher Nicholson, Deputy Legal Secretary to the Lord President; Elizabeth Cutting, Head of Judicial Communications; Steven D’Arcy, Head of Strategy and Governance, Judicial Office for Scotland. 

Full report: 

Report of the Review of Policy on Recording and Broadcasting of Proceedings in Court, and Use of Live Text-Based Communications from Court 

Consultation responses: 

A Senator 

BBC 

BILETA 

Broadcasters 

Channel 4 

Sky News 

STV 

Alex Prentice QC 

James Macfarlane 

John Scott 

Kingdom News Agency 

Law Society of Scotland 

PCS Scottish Court Service Branch 

Scottish Court Service Policy & Legislation Branch 

Scottish Justices Association 

Sheriffs’ Association 

Victim Support Scotland 

Analysis of consultation responses: 

Linda Nicholson – The Research Shop