Police and CPS should put us in the picture

An interesting article in today’s Times, Law Section written by John Battle, ITN head of compliance. He argues that the public have a right to see film footage and other images shown in open court.

The article examines the Crown Prosecution Service’s ill-informed decision to ban disclosure of all footage related to criminal trials, even that shown to a jury.

‘The ban would have done little to promote understanding of, or confidence in, the work of the police, the CPS and the judiciary.

But then the CPS announced a “clarification”. From now on the prosecution would “usually” disclose custody photographs of defendants, videotapes of police reconstructions, sections of interview transcripts read out in court, police maps and diagrams and videos of crime scenes or of property seized, such as drugs and stolen goods. A separate category of material that “may be released” comprised closed-circuit television footage of defendants viewed by the jury, videos of police interviews with defendants and victimsÂ’ statements.’

It also presents the case for disclosure of evidence under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act.

‘Last month the House of Lords underlined the importance of Article 10 in the context of court reporting and backed the primacy of open justice against privacy rights in a criminal trial. Lord Steyn said: “A criminal trial is a public event . . . Full contemporaneous reporting of criminal trials in progress promotes public confidence in the administration of justice. It promotes the values of the rule of law.”

The ban also seemed to clash with the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, shortly to come into force. In this new dawn, the public were promised more information, not less.’