What will viewers see in the most famous judicial complex in the world?

On Thursday, cameras will roll to broadcast the verdict at the Old Bailey for the first time.

What will be shown on TV?

Only the judge will be visible, neither the defendant in the dock, nor the lawyers, nor other court employees will be visible.

How has the law changed to make this possible?

Under the Royal Courts of Justice (Recording and Broadcasting) Order 2020, Judges of the High Court and the Senior Judicial District are allowed to film when they pass sentences in criminal cases.


Court No. 1 at the Old Bailey in London (Stefan Russo/PA)

– Why didn’t this happen in 2020, when the law was changed?

During the Covid crisis, courts have faced the impact on jury trials and the rapid deployment of access to court via video link.

– Does this change mean that now any member of the public can shoot in court?

No. Under normal circumstances, it is still forbidden to film or photograph in court, and any member of the public caught doing so risks being found in contempt of court.

This is also true for anyone who joined the hearing via video link.

– Why can a participant in a public video recording of a court session pose a danger to the administration of justice?

There are many potential dangers.

Vulnerable witnesses and victims may be excluded from testifying.


A police van carrying members of the Guildford Four pulls up at the Old Bailey in London. Four were returning to court after 14 years in prison for a hearing to challenge their convictions. (Michael Stevens/PA)

This can add to the suffering of the defendants and the families of the victims.

In addition, there may be a risk of violating the communication restriction, especially in cases involving young people.

– Who will broadcast the remarks of the verdict?

Sky News, BBC, ITN and PA news agency will broadcast the footage and post it online.

Who is the judge in the first case?

Senior District Judge Sarah Munro QC has been with the Old Bailey since 2017 and has extensive experience handling complex and high-profile cases, including homicide.

– What is the first TV verdict about?

Defendant Ben Oliver, aged 25, from Bexleyheath, south London, admitted to manslaughter of his grandfather. He should be sentenced, as after the trial he was cleared of the more serious crime of murder.

What is the Old Bailey?

The most famous criminal court in the world has been the site of many of the most infamous cases in British history.

The first Old Bailey was built in 1539 at a cost of £6,000, and the new Old Bailey was opened in 1774.


General view of the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey (Ian Nicholson/PA)

It became the Central Criminal Court by Act of Parliament in 1834 and still occupies the site of Newgate Prison, which stood for 800 years.

It remains the property of the London Corporation.

– How will it be decided which high-profile cases to cover next?

The broadcast media group will be able to apply for sentencing on film and air, and the judge will decide whether to grant the request.

– Will there be cameras in other Royal Courts of England and Wales?

The first verdict will be given at the Old Bailey, but the verdicts will be televised from other high-ranking Royal Courts.

– What kind of judges can be fired?

They will either be judges of the High Court or senior district judges sitting in the Crown Court.

Will the judge still wear the traditional dress and wig on television?

Yes. Judges and barristers still wear wigs in court, although the rules for video-linked hearings were briefly relaxed during the pandemic.


Members of the Judiciary (Victoria Jones/PA)

Some say wigs are old-fashioned and should be thrown away, but many see them as necessary to maintain formality and respect for the court, and to distinguish lawyers from the general public.

– What benefits do televised sentences bring to society?

People will see first-hand the environment in the courtroom, see and hear judges explain the motives behind their sentences.

– And how is this useful for the criminal justice system?

The jury system relies on ordinary members of the public who may have had little or no experience with the legal system prior to being called to serve on a jury.

A better understanding of what is going on in court builds confidence.