This page considers photography and video of courts, legislatures
and heads of state.
It covers -
and courts prohibit
unauthorised photography and video during court proceedings,
committee meetings and sitting of parliamentary chambers.
Deliberate noncompliance is regarded as contempt of parliament
or contempt of court, subject to a fine and/or imprisonment
at the pleasure of the relevant legislature or court (ie
a maximum sentence is not established by legislation).
Those bodies have traditionally adopted a more relaxed
attitude to sketching by amateur or professional artists.
Rationales for restrictions centre on the notion that
unauthorised photography embodies disrespect for courts
and legislatures as institutions and for the judiciary
or members of parliament.
Restrictions have also been justified on the basis of
(flashlights for example disturbing witnesses, judges,
legal counsel and others)
heat (pertinent in the days when photographers relied
on magnesium powder) and
inconvenience of camera crew jostling for a spot
of a defendant's right to a fair trial, through for
example television or newspaper coverage immediately
prior to or during proceedings
potential risk of harm to witnesses, both in terms of
protection of the individual and because threats might
undermine the delivery of justice.
on Family Court justices and other judges in Australia
have also heightened concerns regarding security.
Australian institutions appear to have been more keen
to preserve their dignity - or to ensure a fair trial
for defendants - than their US counterparts, where photography
has featured in high profile trials.
It should be emphasised that restrictions centre on proceedings
within a court or legislature. There is no blanket ban
on photography outside courts and parliamentary buildings.
Harassment of a judge by paparazzi or others would be
treated differently to that of an ordinary person but,
overall, once outside a court journalists and amateur
photographers are free to capture images of most defendants
and witnesses. (One important exception relates to some
witnesses in family court proceedings and in criminal
cases, for example rape trials, whose identity has been
That freedom results in the circus outside courts and
incidents where defendants or their supporters have lashed
out at journalists, for example the incident noted here.
Such attacks do not enjoy immunity for prosecution regarding
assault (ie threat) and battery (physical contact), with
attacks on camera crew sometimes resulting in the assailant
serving time in prison.
In the UK for example the English Criminal justice
Act 1925 provides that no-one shall
take or attempt to take in any court any photograph,
or with a view to publication make or attempt to make
in any court any portrait or sketch of any person being
a judge of the court or a juror or a witness in or a
party to any proceedings before the court, whether civil
or criminal; or
b) publish any photograph portrait or sketch taken or
made in contravention of the foregoing provisions of
this section or any reproduction thereof.
heads of state and politicians
The freedom noted above also means that Australian politicians,
including prime ministers and premiers, are not sacrosanct.
It is thus permissible to take a photograph without permission
if you encounter a supremo in the street or trawling for
media attention by jogging alongside Sydney Harbour.
For photography in legislatures and of legislators see
in particular Enid Campbell's Parliamentary Privilege
(Leichhardt: Federation Press 2003) and Gerard Carney's
Members of Parliament: Law and Ethics (Sydney:
For courts there is a servicable introduction in Court
Reporting in Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni
Press 2005) by Peter Gregory.
Other pointers feature here
as part of the discussion of human rights.
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