A House of Lords committee has backed calls from a University of Huddersfield academic to make it easier for media companies to use technology to cover the courts.

The Communications Committee’s Report - Breaking News? The Future of UK Journalism- cited research by Richard Jones, Subject Area Leader for Media, Journalism and Film.

The Lords agreed with Richard’s argument that restrictions on photography, video and audio recordings in courts in England and Wales, are “outdated”.

Make pandemic-inspired changes permanent

The report recommends the government should review laws banning the use of recording devices in court and consider permanently implementing the relaxation of live streaming of certain court hearings.

Temporary provisions introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic give journalists the right to dial in to hearings by audio or video link.

But Richard would like this not only made permanent but taken further. With journalists now routinely taking their phones into court to write their stories from the press seats, Richard argues it’s time to let them be used as audio recorders and cameras too.

Media companies losing interest in court reporting

In a time of shrinking resources, Richard is worried media companies might cover the courts less if they aren't given more access to proceedings to create multimedia stories suitable for online use.

With the local press often the only media reporting on most courts, its decline increases the risk that justice will no longer be ‘seen to be done’.

Photography in court buildings has been banned since 1925. That followed growing public and political concern over the publication of pictures of notorious criminals in the dock, including murderer Dr Hawley Crippen.

Audio recording was prohibited in 1981 while moves to televise some court hearings since then have only progressed slowly.

Richard’s research is part of his PhD project on court reporting in the local media.

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