University of Bath

Media and Criminal Justice Studies Network

Understanding the production, distribution and reception of as-live courtroom footage and its impact on public perception of criminal justice.

Cameras are gradually being allowed into courtrooms in England and Wales in a set of legislative changes that mark a historic shift in the meaning of public involvement in the courtroom and the relationship between the judiciary and the media.

Our research community brings together academics from the social sciences, arts and humanities, to understand the production, distribution, and reception of as-live courtroom footage, and, in turn, how courtroom broadcasting might influence public confidence, trust, and knowledge about criminal justice.

This project seeks to establish a major international research network for the cross-disciplinary study of as-live broadcasting of official processes and fora (including courts, tribunals, enquiries).

Project team

Funder

GW4

Initiator project

Our long-term aspiration is to become a major international research network for the cross-disciplinary study of as-live broadcasting of official processes and fora (including courts, tribunals, enquiries).

To achieve this we will seek to fulfil the following objectives:

  • consolidate and grow our research community through a set of half- and full-day research meetings
  • carry out a practice-based exploratory study which explores possibilities for filming and editing criminal trial proceedings and investigates how such production choices shape viewers responses
  • develop a programme of research
  • organise and run a public engagement event to disseminate our research to a wider, non-academic audience

Project outputs

  • A public engagement event: an interactive workshop with children aged between 15 and 19 years exploring issues around courtroom filming and broadcasting
  • Two journal articles based on results from the exploratory study and public engagement event
  • Links fostered with the Ministry of Justice's Criminal Justice Policy research group

Accelerator project

GW4 Initiator funding enabled us to extend the network and form an advisory panel made up of legal professionals and academics from law, social policy and social work, politics, and psychology. We have also forged links with Cardiff ’s Centre for Crime, Law, and Justice.

Our network incorporates 25 members. Through a series of community-building activities we have developed productive relationships with the UK Supreme Court, the LSE/Birkbeck socio-legal research group, and the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Justice Policy Reform group.

These activities identified a gap in existing research. The current conception of courtroom broadcasting (in policy, public debate, and research) assumes the camera to be a window into the courtroom and neglects to consider audience reception. Our research aims to prompt a step change in policy and thinking.

One of our core research aims is to demonstrate that there is a complex process of selection involved in courtroom broadcasting, from the choice of a particular appeal/trial for filming, to the production choices involved in creating the footage, and it’s framing by media organisations. We also aim to show that different choices elicit different audience responses.

Project phase outputs

  • Consolidate and extend the research community
  • Carry out a proof of concept study that demonstrates that production choices affect audience reception (this will be the basis for a co-written journal article and recommendations concerning best practice)
  • Hold stakeholder consultation events to examine the interplay of media and legal interests
  • Disseminate our research by:
    • running two public engagement events in collaboration with the Sutton Trust for Pathways to Law students
    • develop our online profile
  • Submit a bid for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding for approximately £700,000

This study will examine the production and distribution of as-live courtroom footage, and, in turn, how courtroom broadcasting influences public confidence, trust, and knowledge.