Sky News‘ live video stream from the Supreme Court attracts an average 90,000 visitors a day, according to the channel’s head of news John Ryley.
The figure was cited in an open letter sent by Ryley to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke in which he renewed calls for cameras to be allowed in courts.
Ryley claimed the controversial sentences handed down by judges after last month’s riots illustrated the continuing lack of transparency in the justice system.
‘The public is unsurprisingly confused by the discrepancies in some of the sentences handed down to those involved in the rioting and looting,’he argued.
‘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.”
Last year representatives from Sky News, BBC and ITN met with Clarke to discuss proposals for allowing cameras in court, including televising judgments in civil cases.
At the time, claimed Ryley, Clarke said he was interested in proposals and ‘believed it was consistent with the Government’s commitment to enable the public to better understand decisions that may affect or interest them hold politicians and public bodies to accountâ€¦’
Clarke claimed he would consult with ‘interested parties’before considering whether to change the law, according to Ryley.
‘Eight months have now passed, but the law remains in place and television cameras are still excluded from every part of the judicial process in England and Wales, except the Supreme Court,’said Ryley.
‘Incidentally, you may have noticed that Sky News has been streaming the proceedings of the Supreme Court live on its website and they have been viewed by an average of 90,000 individuals a day.
‘We believe it is time that television cameras were allowed into all courts, starting with the televising of sentencing remarks and judgments.
‘The audio would also be available to be used in radio news and current affair programmes and online.”
Sky News launched its live video feed from the Supreme Court in May.
At the time associate editor Simon Bucks said 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”.
A few days before the video feed went live the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC backed plans to allow cameras into court.
He told a lunch hosted by the Parliamentary and Legal committee of the Society of Editors: ‘In principle I would support a proposal that judgments, judges’ closing remarks and judicial sentencing in criminal cases could be televised.
‘There may be a case for going further, although I would obviously not want to promote anything that adversely affected the ability of victims or witnesses to give their best evidence to the court.”
He added: ‘He added: ‘I believe that transparency and visibility help the public understand how the criminal justice system works, and shining a light on the workings of the court room can only serve to boost its efficiency and effectiveness.”
Cameras, including video cameras, are banned from courts by section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925.