The Government has clearly deemed the launch of ‘Supreme Court TV’ earlier this year a success, as Ken Clarke announced that more court proceedings are to be televised. Announcing the decision on Tuesday, Clarke said: “The government and judiciary are determined to improve transparency and public understanding of courts through allowing court broadcasting. We believe television has a role in increasing public confidence in the justice system.” Broadcasting will be initially limited to the Court of Appeal, with a plan to expand to crown courts. Only the judge’s sentencing remarks will be broadcast.

The decision has caused some debate, with some commentators fearing that the move may endanger judicial impartiality and will not increase public understanding of the justice system. The Government has said that it is confident that judges will not ‘play to the camera’ but Joshua Rozenberg is not so sure. David Banks in The Guardian warned that: “Divorced from the detail of the hearing that went before it, a sentence alone does little to promote understanding of the process, though it might assuage a public desire to see some retribution.” In addition, “What of the many not guilty verdicts delivered every day by courts up and down the land? If sentences are televised, but not guilty verdicts, directed acquittals, dismissal of charges and discontinued cases are not given similar TV coverage, surely this also produces a skewed view of the judicial process?” Felicity Gerry however, in response to the idea that judicial sentencing may become the reality TV show of choice, argued that “even barristers need to move with the times, and showing people the important things we do is somehow better than Jedward.”

Despite the dawn of this new era of open justice, unauthorized recording of court proceedings is still not to be advised. On Friday the Court of Appeal freed an 85-year-old man who was jailed for six months for recording court proceedings. Three judges quashed the sentence imposed on Norman Scarth in July for contempt of court and substituted one of 12 weeks, resulting in his immediate release from Armley prison in Leeds. The appeal judges had heard evidence about Scarth’s mental health.

One of the first men to appear at a crown court after the August riots is to challenge his prison sentence in the Court of Appeal, in a case that could set a precedent for a number of appeals concerning the sentences given in the aftermath of the riots. David Beswick, 31, of Eccles, was jailed for 18 months for handling stolen goods. The Beswick case is the second riots-related challenge to be lodged at the court of appeal by a defendant sentenced at a crown court. Many more are expected to follow. The first lodged involves Jordan Blackshaw, 20, of Northwich, Cheshire, who was given a four-year jail sentence after a court heard he tried to incite a riot on Facebook.

In parallel to the appeals against riot sentencing, there are indications that the sentences meted out to rioters may have a more long-term effect on the judicial system. The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, has put himself at odds with Kenneth Clarke, by suggesting that increasing the sentencing powers of magistrates would make the court system more efficient. Appearing before the justice select committee at Westminster, Grieve said consideration should be given to raising the maximum sentences that can be imposed by magistrates. The speed with which recent riot-related cases had been processed through magistrates courts had been “very educational”, the attorney general said. Grieve’s views are in direct opposition to the aims of Clarke’s legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, one section of which repeals powers enabling magistrates to sentence those found guilty to up 12 months in prison for any single offence.

The Baha Mousa Inquiry Report was published on Thursday. The chairman of the inquiry, retired Court of Appeal judge Sir William Gage, condemned members of the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment for their “lack of moral courage” in failing to report abuse and the use of banned interrogation after Mousa died of 93 injuries in British army custody in Basra in 2003. The report makes 73 recommendations to prevent such incidents occurring in future.  These include ensuring that that the military know they could be prosecuted for breaching a standing order that should be issued prohibiting hooding, use of white noise, sleep deprivation, wall standing and providing a limited diet, and that whistleblowers should be given protection.  The lawyers for the family of Baha Mousa are calling of the soldiers involved in his death to be prosecuted. Sapna Malik, from law firm Leigh Day and Co, told a press conference in central London: “In light of the cogent and serious findings by Sir William Gage, we now expect that the military and civilian prosecuting authorities of this country will act to ensure that justice is done.”

Finally, the Ministry of Justice has released its annual report to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Responding to human rights judgments. The report contains summaries of the 17 European Court of Human Rights judgments against the UK in 2010 and the government’s response to them. An excellent analysis of the report, and in particular the section on prisoner voting, can be read on the UK Human Rights Blog.