West Ham stadium seating fight creates history

The London Stadium in Stratford. Pic: Ken Mears

The London Stadium in Stratford. Pic: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

West Ham’s legal fight with the company that manages the London Stadium has made history by becoming the first Court of Appeal hearing to be streamed live online.

Viewers today watched three senior judges hearing the case as part of a pilot for a new service which aims to increase the public access to the court’s work.

The football club is embroiled in a dispute with E20, which manages the venue in Stratford, over the seating capacity for home games.

The case is being heard by Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, Mr Justice Lewison and Mrs Justice Asplin.

The judges are being asked to rule on a preliminary issue ahead of a trial which is due to start next week.

In a statement ahead of the hearing, Sir Terence said: “This is an exciting way of opening up our courts to help the public understand and see for themselves the way that courts work, and how appeals are heard.

“The first case is a high-profile one with a great deal of public interest, which is why it has been selected for the public pilot.

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“The intention is to have up to three appeal hearings being live streamed in the near future, assuming that all works well with the public pilot.

“We hope that as well as opening up the court’s work to a mass audience, the broadcasts will increase public confidence in the system.”

Since 2013, certain Court of Appeal hearings have been selected by the media for filming and broadcast, but live streaming of full hearings has not happened before.

Live broadcasts of proceedings in the UK Supreme Court have been available since 2011.

Under the pilot, the Court of Appeal will select cases for live transmission and the image broadcast is of a split screen, with views of the judicial bench and counsel involved in the case.

As with Supreme Court hearings, there will be a delay to allow for a case to be halted so the broadcast does not include a breach of any reporting restrictions.

The stream would also be interrupted in the event of a disturbance in court.

A spokesman for the Judicial Communications office said the public pilot would be evaluated before live streaming was extended.

If the pilot is successful, the Master of the Rolls will seek an amendment of existing rules to enable appeals in Family Court cases to be live streamed - a move understood to be supported by senior judges.