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Hurry up with webcams in courts, says Sky News boss

Media chief feels justice system needs more credibility

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Streaming trials on the internet will help people have confidence in the British justice system, Sky News boss John Ryley claimed in an open letter to the Justice Secretary today.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke promised to open up British courts to cameras eight months ago in a meeting with Sky, the BBC and ITN – but as yet only dealings in the Supreme Court are filmed and published online.

John Ryley, Head of Sky News, has decided to hustle Clarke along with an open letter where he states that:

"I believe that if television cameras were allowed to broadcast the remarks made by judges when they pass sentence, it would go a long way to making the process more transparent and would dramatically improve public confidence in the system."

Ryley adds a claim that Sky News's Supreme Court Live feed, which started in May 2011, gets 90,000 visitors a day. (Though obviously only when the court is in session – it's currently off till October when the legal term starts again.)

The courts have complained about cost before in discussions of opening up trials to cameras, saying on their website that they cannot make recordings of previous cases available to members of the public because it takes them too much time to burn the broadcasts onto DVDs.

With the decline of court reporting in regional papers as budgets and journalists are cut, both judges and journalists have warned that courts will escape public scrutiny, so broadcasting their procedures online is one obvious way to make the system more transparent.

One early objection to televising trials seems to have been quashed by the experiment with the Supreme court: Judges don't "act up" to the cameras.

The Press Gazette reports Sky News' associate editor Simon Bucks saying that: "A few minutes watching the proceedings will dispel one of the arguments used by those who oppose televising all courts: that judges and lawyers will 'act up' to the camera. They don't." ®

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