Sky News threatens legal challenge to cameras in court

Sky News is to launch a campaign to get television cameras into UK courts.

Sky News head John Ryley told Cambridge Union in a speech that the campaign would include legal challenges to the current ban on cameras in court.Cameras – including video cameras – are banned from courts by section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925.

Ryley said: “After the General Election, Sky News will be campaigning hard to lift the ban on cameras in courts.

“It’s precisely what you would expect from a truly independent news organisation able to push boundaries and challenge the status quo.

“We will explore every opportunity to mount a legal challenge against the ban on cameras, we will launch a public petition, as we did for the Leaders’ debates, and we will remind our viewers, listeners and website users about the campaign every time we report from outside a court with no pictures of what has taken place inside.

“I will be asking the BBC if it wants to join our campaign – I look forward to the answer.”

Ryley said: “Today, any member of the public has the right to walk into any court, any day, and see justice being done, but 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.

“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.

“Exposure to public scrutiny could be the saviour of the judicial system, allowing the public to understand the constraints under which judges worked, and the complexities of many cases, which were “inevitably over-simplified in a two-minute news piece”.

A consortium of broadcasters was allowed to film appeal courts and prepare dummy programmes in an experiment run in 2004-2005.

The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, was said in November 2006 to be in favour of allowing cameras to film both criminal and civil trials.

In March 2008 a Ministry of Justice spokesman told Media Lawyer: “The matter of televising court cases remains under consideration. An announcement will be made in due course.”

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