UK justice minister backs TV broadcasts of courts

By the Associated Press | September 6, 2011 | 10:30 AM EDT

LONDON (AP) — Britain intends to allow TV cameras into courts in England and Wales so the public can judge the judicial system's performance.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said Tuesday he will propose legislation that initially allows broadcasts of judges' rulings in the Court of Appeal, and then moves on to broadcasting sentences in the country's lower courts. He did not set an effective date.

"We will work to ensure this does not hinder the administration of justice and that it protects victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors," Clark promised, vowing to make sure the practice won't allow offenders a chance to preen before the camera.

TV cameras have been allowed into the Supreme Court, Britain's highest court, since it was established two years ago, and Scotland has allowed television coverage of some court proceedings since 1992.

"Public trust in the criminal justice system may be enhanced by the broadcasting of sentencing remarks," said Peter Lodder, chairman of the Bar Council. "All sentencing decisions are explained fully, but the full extent of the judge's remarks is often unreported."

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Clarke announced his agency would also begin to publish statistics on court performance, re-offending rates for every area and prison in England and Wales, and data on the age, sex and ethnicity of every person sentenced.