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The British public is being asked whether television cameras should be allowed in court, the government said Monday. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, issued a public consultation paper on broadcasting court cases in England, Northern Ireland and Wales on Monday and announced a trial of video recording in courts. Cameras will be allowed to record a small number of hearings at London’s Royal Courts of Justice as part of the trial. Falconer welcomed the trial and called for a broader public debate on the issue. “The time is right for a full public debate of these issues — technology and public attitudes have moved on since the legislation controlling the broadcasting of courts was passed in 1925,” he said. But he said broadcasting of court cases could make people unwilling to report crime or testify. “Cameras in the courtroom would be a big step. We have to make sure that any such step would benefit justice, not burden justice.” Footage from the trial, which involves six British TV organizations, will not be broadcast but will be used for evaluation purposes. Announcing the trial earlier this year, Lord Falconer insisted Britain would not have televised trials like the American televised murder trial of former footballer and actor O.J. Simpson. “We must protect witnesses and jurors and victims. We don’t want our courts turned into U.S-style media circuses,” he said. The British public will be asked whether they support or oppose filming and video recording, still photography, sound recording or broadcasting of text from court proceedings. The public will have until February to respond to the consultation, which also asks if they are in favor of a dedicated television channel showing court proceedings and Internet access to court broadcasts. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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