History will be made in the court of appeal tomorrow, when cameras are allowed to film for the first time in an English courtroom.
A criminal appeal is the first case to be filmed as part of an experiment which could open the doors of the courts to television cameras and allow highlights to be broadcast regularly in TV news bulletins.
The start of the pilot scheme coincides with the launch of a consultation by ministers and judges on how far the courts should be thrown open to broadcasters in an attempt to educate the public and boost confidence in the legal system.
A consultation document to be unveiled today by Lord Falconer, the lord chancellor, and the deputy chief justice, Lord Justice Judge, will seek views from the public, lawyers, judges, broadcasters and other interested parties.
Although most courts are open to the public, few people who are not involved in a court case ever go inside.
The pilot will cover criminal and civil appeals in the court of appeal, but not trials. The lord chancellor and senior judges are against the televising of trials because they believe the camera’s presence would intimidate witnesses and affect their testimony, and could create an OJ Simpson-style media circus.
But they have no objection in principle to filming in the appeal courts, where there are normally no witnesses.
The results of the pilot will not be broadcast.
Broadcasters will produce mocked-up news packages which will be shown to ministers, judges and legal professional bodies to decide whether filming for broadcast should be allowed to go ahead.
Cameras – even still cameras – have never been permitted before in the courts of England and Wales.
A Scottish court permitted filming as part of an experiment in 1992, but the project was not taken further.
The first case scheduled to be filmed is an appeal by the former Lincolnshire county council leader Jim Speechley, who was convicted of misconduct in public office and sentenced to 18 months at Sheffield crown court last April.
The Tory councillor, who was released pending his appeal, was found to have tried to influence the route of a bypass to increase the value of a pocket of land he owned.
One of the most senior appeal court judges, Lord Justice Kennedy, will preside over the appeal.