News cameras enter some courts from October as Channel 4 screens murder trial

The prospect of TV cameras being allowed to film judges sentencing murderers, rapists and other criminals has moved a step closer under new Government plans.

Proceedings in the Court of Appeal will be televised later this year, with cameras set to be allowed into Crown courts in future.

Viewers will be able to watch lawyers' arguments and the rulings of appeal court judges under the plan, which could be in place by October.

The Ministry of Justice was working with the judiciary and broadcasters to extend this to Crown courts, in an effort to "bring a new openness" to the system in England and Wales, a Government source said.

Cameras will be placed at the Royal Courts of Justice, where they will be able to film criminal and civil appeals.

Broadcasters will determine which cases are covered, subject to necessary judicial checks.

The source said: "In some cases it will not be in the interests of justice to broadcast footage."

Unlike in US-style televised trials, victims, witnesses and defendants will not be filmed.

A No 10 source said: "This is an important step in opening up the court process.

"Allowing the public to watch justice in action will help build trust in our judicial system.

"Hearing why verdicts have been given and watching the sentencing process will add to public confidence in the courts."

Proceedings in the Supreme Court can already be filmed, but this new initiative will extend that principle.

In January the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, raised concerns about sentencing being shown on television amid fears that members of the judiciary would be booed.

He told the Lords Constitution Committee that filming a sentencing could encourage hecklers to yell abuse or even cheer, adding: "I'm very troubled about having cameras just swanning around."

The news comes as Channel 4 prepares to broadcast a Court of Appeal trial in Scotland about a man accused of murdering his wife in 1998.

It is the first time in 19 years that cameras have been allowed to film a murder trial in the UK.

The Murder Trial, which will be broadcast next Tuesday, centres on the retrial of Nat Fraser who was convicted of the murder of his wife in 2003 despite the fact a body was never found.

The documentary-makers were allowed to record the whole trial. The broadcast was only restricted in that the jury was not allowed to be identified and one witness – out of 70 – refused to have their appearance in court shown.

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