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Judges’ Crown Court sentencing remarks to be filmed for first time

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Pilot could see parts of high profile trials shown live on TV

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For the first time TV cameras will be allowed in to the Crown Court in a new pilot scheme to assess whether judges’ sentencing remarks should be broadcast live.

Currently, filming is permitted in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, but banned in the Crown Court under section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and the Contempt of Court Act.

But this is to change as TV cameras are brought in to eight courts in England and Wales, including the Old Bailey.

The other courts included in the three-month pilot are Southwark, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Cardiff.

Today a statutory instrument will be laid in the House of Commons to change the law. Once it is passed the initiative will start as soon as possible, with the filming handled by the BBC, Sky, ITN and the Press Association as an extension to their Court of Appeal coverage.

Only judges’ sentences remarks will be filmed — so for now there will be no English version of the Oscar Pistorius trial. And under the pilot nothing will actually be broadcast.

But justice minister Shailesh Vara, who announced the scheme over the weekend, has indicated that the aim of the project is to enable Crown Court TV. He commented:

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 seemed more cautious, as he 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.