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Thumbs up Sky News unveils court cameras campaign - 15-January-2010, 17:40

Sky News unveils court cameras campaign

Friday, January 15 2010, 10:00 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

Sky News has announced plans to launch a campaign after the next general election to get the ban lifted on TV cameras being placed in court rooms.

In a speech to the Cambridge Union Society, Sky News head John Ryley said that the broadcaster will be "campaigning hard" to secure an end to the refusal.

A public petition will be launched on the issue and Sky News will remind its viewers about the campaign "every time we report from outside a court with no pictures of what has taken place inside". Ryley has asked the BBC to get involved as well.

"There remains one more branch of our democratic system which broadcasting has still not properly penetrated - the courts," said Ryley.

"If the legislature is to be subject to far greater scrutiny, so too must the judiciary, so the public can fairly judge the balance of responsibility between them."

Ryley described a fair and coherent judicial system as the "keystone of a democratic system". Even though members of the public have the right to sit in any court sitting, he expressed concern that "few have the time or the means to do so".

"There can be no logic for excluding the cameras from events which are already held in public. Nor, may I say, any public interest: the decline in public confidence in politics is perhaps only matched by the decline in confidence in the judiciary," said Ryley.

"The public wants to understand how a householder can be imprisoned for defending his family and his property. They want to know how a man can avoid jail for viewing child abuse on the internet. They will certainly want to know if the CPS decides to prosecute a Parliamentarian over his expenses.

"Far from being the downfall of the judicial system, I believe exposure to public scrutiny could be its saviour, enabling the public to understand the constraints under which our judges operate - the complexities of many of the cases before them which are inevitably over-simplified in a 30-second news piece."

Sky News has previously attempted to circumvent the camera ban with various initiatives, such as using 3D digital graphics for reconstructing the Soham Murder trial of Ian Huntley and Maxine Carr in 2003.

The broadcaster hired actors to recreate proceedings in a trial of popstar Michael Jackson and also won the right to carry live transcripts from stenographers during court sessions.

However, Ryley pointed to the fact that the Supreme Court now has cameras installed and the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War was televised as "signs that resistance is weakening".

"The broadcasters, collectively, have been lobbying for cameras in court, probably for as long as they have lobbied for election debates," he said. "But so far it has been fruitless. It's time for a new initiative."

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