Courtroom TV cameras 'not a priority' two years after pilot

A decision on whether television cameras should be allowed into courts is not a priority, the Department for Constitutional Affairs has said, two years on from the court TV pilot.

In August 2004, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs Lord Falconer announced a pilot scheme to film proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice, saying that the time was "ripe for a debate" over filming the courts in England and Wales.

Despite lobbying from all the major broadcasters for an announcement to be made, no decision has been taken as to the next steps.

A DCA spokeswoman told Press Gazette: "Lord Falconer needs to make a decision about which way he is going to go, because a little bit of time has passed by, but at the moment nothing has changed, so we still need to make a decision.

"There are so many other priorities — the legislative programme has been quite busy since he made the announcement and there are other things that are more important.

"We look after things like human rights, legal aid and the criminal justice system and I suppose in the bigger picture, whether you do or do not broadcast in court isn't as important as sorting out those other issues, it's just a priority thing. But we are chasing."

Sky News associate editor Simon Bucks, who was involved in the consultation process, said the Government was missing an opportunity to give the public a better insight into the way justice is done.

He said: "We're obviously very frustrated by it, having gone through a consultancy period and produced the pilot.

"The consultations show that although there were some objections to the televising of some parts of trials, there was overwhelming evidence that at least some parts of court cases should be shown on TV."

Filming of the pilot was organised in partnership with ITV, the BBC, Sky, ITN, Channel 4 and Five. The scheme excluded juries, witnesses and the dock from being filmed, but the proposals would allow broadcasters to screen the summing up of cases by a judge.

It was followed by a consultation paper which considered whether there was a public interest "in allowing people to see what happens in their name in our courts — through the medium of television".

Speaking at the time, Falconer said: "The last thing we want to see in Britain is trials which would be USstyle media circuses."

He said the decision had similarities to the case of televising Parliament, which took 20 years from first considering the issue to the first broadcast.

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