Centre for media and criminal justice studies

INITIATOR FUND 

Project period: September 2015 – January 2016

This community later received Accelerator Funding for the project: Media and Criminal Justice Studies Network

GW4 community leads 

University of Bath: Sarah Moore (PI) 
University of Bristol: Alex Clayton, Eleanor Rycroft 
Cardiff University: Inaki Garcia-Blanco 
University of Exeter: Sarah Cooper 

Project overview

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. From this we aim to identify how courtroom broadcasting might influence public confidence, trust, and knowledge about criminal justice. 

Background 

Cameras are being re-introduced to courtrooms in England and Wales, first, in 2007, in the Supreme Court, and then, from late 2013, in the Court of Appeal. These represent small, but significant steps towards achieving what the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) refer to as ’transparent justice’. The MoJ plans to extend the use of cameras to criminal trials with the hope that this will improve the public’s knowledge about and trust in the criminal justice system (MoJ 2014). These are, though, untested ambitions. The relationship between courtroom broadcasting and public attitudes and knowledge is under-theorised and lacking an empirical basis. More generally-speaking, research concerning as-live broadcasting of official proceedings is very sparse indeed, both inside the UK and in other common law jurisdictions undergoing similar shifts towards ‘transparent justice’. This omission is surprising, given that the rise of as-live courtroom broadcasting represents a very significant global shift in the public’s experience of criminal justice — the broadcasting of the Oscar Pistorius trial is an interesting case in point. The proposed research community will be the first to bring together expertise from sociology, politics, journalism, film, and theatre to examine the rise, meaning, and function of as-live courtroom film production and distribution.  

Project summary 

The community used Initiator funding to extend the network across GW4, including forming an advisory panel. The funding facilitated a set of community building activities, including sandpit style events, a public engagement event and symposium. These activities enabled the community to develop relationships with key stakeholders, such as the UK Supreme Court. The community went on to receive Accelerator funding to continue this research.