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Government confirms end to ban on courtroom cameras

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The ban on television cameras being allowed to film inside law courts is to be overturned as part of plans to improve "public confidence" in the justice system, the government has confirmed.

As reported earlier today, broadcasters will be permitted to film judgements in England and Wales, initially just in the Court of Appeal, but expanding to the Crown Court in future.

The allowed filming will only cover the judges' final remarks at the end of the trial, and victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will not be shown in TV coverage.

Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke said: "The government and judiciary are determined to improve transparency and public understanding of court through allowing court broadcasting.

"We believe television has a role in increasing public confidence in the justice system."

John Ryley, the head of Sky News, has long called for TV cameras to be allowed in courtrooms to help tackle the "growing public dissatisfaction with the judicial process".

Ryley wrote an open letter to Clarke last month outlining a proposal, put together with senior management at the BBC and ITN, for limited TV coverage of court proceedings, without putting vulnerable witnesses at risk of undue exposure.

Discussing today's move, Ryley said: "Sky News welcomes the decision and looks forward to working with the judiciary to bring about more transparency in our justice system."

Under current law, cameras - including video cameras - are banned from courts in England and Wales by section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925, and so new legislation will need to be passed to allow TV cameras in courts. The Ministry of Justice said that all changes "will be worked out in close consultation with the judiciary".

Cameras have been allowed in Scotland's courts since 1992, but only if all parties involved in the proceedings have first given their consent.

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan agreed that public confidence in the legal system would improve if filming was allowed.

"I believe that public understanding of and confidence in our legal system would improve if judges' verdicts were televised," he said.

"However, it will be extremely important to ensure that careful controls are in place to protect jurors, victims and witnesses, particularly in complex and high-profile cases."

Speaking to BBC News, solicitor Julian Young warned that prisoners could be put at risk if their personal information and previous convictions were revealed on TV.

He also expressed concern about people in courtroom galleries potentially misbehaving during judges' speeches to gain publicity, or viewers not grasping the full thrust of cases if they only hear what the judge has to say.

"There are all sorts of dangers which have to be carefully examined and a balance obtained, and that balance is not an easy one because all you're concentrating on is the judge," Khan added.

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