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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 July 2005, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
TV cameras 'to be let into court'
Cameras are banned from courtrooms in England and Wales
TV cameras could be allowed into English and Welsh courtrooms on a regular basis from next year, according to a leaked government document.

The memo, the contents of which are reported by the Sunday Times, suggests parts of high profile criminal trials could be broadcast live.

It had previously been expected cameras would be restricted to filming appeal hearings which did not involve juries.

A government spokesman said no final decision had yet been made.

According the Sunday Times, ministers have decided broadcasters should be allowed to film parts of ordinary criminal trials and civil disputes.

Judges' discretion

But there would be strict conditions on the coverage so as to strike a balance between demystifying the judicial process and protecting witnesses' identities, the paper reports.

It says only judges will be shown on camera, never defendants, lawyers, jurors or witnesses, and it will be up to judges' discretion to bar broadcasters from cases deemed too sensitive or where there is a risk of prejudicing another trial.

We don't want our courts turned into US-style media circuses
Lord Falconer

According to the memo, the newspaper says, cameras would be allowed to film all judgements in open court in civil proceedings and the passing of sentences or acquittals in criminal trials in crown courts.

Judges' summing up in crown court cases could also be filmed, so long as prosecutors and defence lawyers agreed, it adds.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs has been consulting the public and experts for several months about whether cameras should be allowed into courts.

This has included a pilot project in the Court of Appeal in November in which 24 cases were filmed with the understanding that the footage would not be broadcast.

Deter witnesses?

Launching the consultation in November, the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, said there was a strong case for allowing broadcasters to film cases which did not involve witnesses.

He argued that justice was always better when it was seen to be done.

At the time he also said he was against televising criminal trials as it might deter witnesses from giving evidence.

Lord Falconer is also keen to avoid having "OJ Simpson-style trials" in England and Wales.

"We don't want our courts turned into US-style media circuses," he said last August.

The only England and Wales court proceedings currently televised are judgments of the Law Lords, which are read out in Parliament.

Cameras have been allowed in Scottish courts - under strict conditions - for several years.

The scheme, introduced in 1992, permits court cases to be televised if all sides involved give their consent.

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27 Dec 00 |  UK News

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