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March 21, 2016updated 22 Mar 2016 1:55pm

Broadcast news providers sponsor first trial of TV cameras in UK crown courts

By PA Media Lawyer

Television cameras are set to be allowed into Crown Courts for the first time, it has been revealed.

Sentencing remarks made by senior judges will be filmed in a pilot expected to start within weeks.

The footage will not be broadcast but the historic move could pave the way for the first live coverage of Crown Court cases.

Until now filming has only been allowed at hearings at the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

Announcing the scheme, justice minister Shailesh Vara said: "My hope is that this will lead to more openness and transparency as to what happens in our courts.

"Broadcasting sentencing remarks would allow the public to see and hear the judge's decision in their own words."

Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said: "I am interested to see how this pilot progresses and will work with the Ministry of Justice to assess the impact of cameras in court."

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The three-month pilot will take place in eight courts around England and Wales.

They are the Old Bailey and courts at Southwark in south London, Manchester (Crown Square), Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Cardiff.

Safeguards will be put in place to make sure victims continue to be supported and the administration of justice is not affected, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

The cameras will film only the judge, and the filming of all other court users, including staff, victims, witnesses, defendants and advocates will remain banned.

Crown Courts are open to the press and public but filming and recording is banned under section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and the Contempt of Court Act

Filming has been possible in the Court of Appeal since 2013 after cameras were allowed in following years of campaigning by broadcasters.

A number of high-profile cases have been televised in other countries. In South Africa parts of the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the former Olympic athlete who shot dead his model girlfriend, were broadcast live in 2014.

A statutory instrument will be laid in the House of Commons on Monday and the initiative will start as soon as possible once the legislation is passed.

The existing broadcasters operating in the Court of Appeal – the BBC, Sky, ITN and the Press Association – have agreed to support the pilot period at no cost to the public purse, the MoJ said.

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