England allows cameras in court

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England's law courts will be opened up to television cameras for the first time, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced Tuesday, although filming will be restricted to judges' summary remarks.

Clarke said he would overturn the 86-year-old ban on filming in all courts in England and Wales except the Supreme Court, to improve public understanding of the justice system.

However, the ban on filming victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors will remain to avoid interfering with the operation of the courts or intimidating those involved, with only judges' summary remarks allowed to be broadcast.

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

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

The ban on filming, which dates back to 1925, will not be lifted across all courts immediately, but will begin with the Court of Appeal and then likely move to the Crown Court.

Under the existing rules, audio from inside court is banned and sketches have hitherto been used by broadcasters and newspapers alike to illustrate events inside court buildings.

Broadcasters had been pressing for a change in the law for several years, and in 2004 a consortium were allowed to film certain courts and prepare dummy programmes in an experiment.

However, Conservative lawmaker Roger Cale warned that court hearings must not be turned into some form of light entertainment.

"This is not about transparency or democracy, it is about television showbusiness and we do not need our law courts to be turned into yet another reality TV show," he said.

Clarke also announced that the government would publish new information on the performance of the courts, including statistics on how long cases take to process from offence to conviction, and data on sentences.

Within the United Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems.

© 2011 AFP

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