Televised courtrooms could change legal roles

PROs should prepare themselves for greater involvement with the legal world if mooted televised court hearings get the green light.

Riley: judges and barristers will have to groom image

Following years of debate on whether or not to allow cameras in court, recent newspaper reports have claimed Britain’s new Supreme Court will have the capability to record hearings in full. It is the strongest indication yet that British courts will be the subject of US-style TV programmes.

If the plan goes ahead, judges and barristers involved in high-profile civil appeal hearings will have higher profiles, according to top litigation PRO and Bell Yard Communications director Melanie Riley.

‘Certain judges and barristers may become household faces, conferring a celebrity status to the profession that is currently enjoyed by only a few individuals. Transparency comes at a price,’ she warned.

Riley added that ‘truly smart counsel could require the tactical use of soundbites to attract broadcast attention, so PROs certainly have a role to play’.

Barristers may find that their methods for winning cases must be palatable on television, as well as effective in the courtroom, to avoid risking alienating their clients’ customers or other stakeholders.

Experts predict that broadcasting the Supreme Court hearings would have a trickle-down effect, and that eventually other appeal cases and High Court proceedings would also be televised.

‘Over time, as cameras enter the lower courts, as in my view they inevitably will, clients may become less solely reliant on solicitors’ advice as to their choice of counsel, and increasingly include in their considerations how certain barristers might come across on television,’ commented Riley.

The Supreme Court is set to open in 2009 in Parliament Square. The decision whether recordings made in the Supreme Court will be broadcast externally will be taken by the yet to be appointed president of the Supreme Court.

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