Justice actually seen to be done?

  TOPCAT® 15:57 24 Apr 2007

The question has been raised again, as it has in the past, that television should be allowed into our major English courts, where interested viewers could see for themselves how justice is arrived at. Legislation passed in 1925 banned cameras from courts in England and Wales and previous attempts since then to introduce cameras to court have failed. Apparently, legal opinions still remain sharply divided on the issue.

Television's current presence in the two Chambers of Westminster didn't happen without some initial opposition from various quarters, but that didn't stop it from being installed, so should we follow the lead of Scotland which, under strict conditions, has allowed filming of court proceedings since 1992?

I rest my case, M'luds, and await your verdicts with interest! TC.

  Cymro. 16:14 24 Apr 2007

Yes indeed why not?
Judges and such being as they are will be very much against it.

But then the politicians were at one time very much against letting the T.V. cameras

in to Westminster, but just imagine the row if they ever tried to stop it now.

  Pine Man 16:19 24 Apr 2007

.....and maybe we could get live television of paint drying or grass growing!

Whatever turns you on.

  johndrew 16:44 24 Apr 2007

There is a problem with some cases where children, rape victims, state security and similar are concerned, but generally it may help as the offenders would definitely be in the `limelight` and may be tempted to behave in the future. Additionally the judiciary would have to be seen to apply the law as the public want it applied; they may even be forced to work a full day!!!

  Kate B 17:25 24 Apr 2007

I'm in favour of allowing TV cameras into court. Courts are part of the criminal justice system to which we're all a party. It's simply that the courts haven't kept up with the media: it's really no different to allowing print reporters into courts. On the subject of editing, print journalists already edit court proceedings. There are various rules you have to abide by, which everyone does. The same would be true of TV journalists.

The obvious exception is cases involving children or alleged rape victims.

  spuds 17:41 24 Apr 2007

Some Crown or Magistrate Court proceedings can be very boring, so it would need to be a case of selection or pay as you view. O J Simpson perhaps!!.

  Forum Editor 21:26 24 Apr 2007

The more accessible our courts become, the better we'll all understand the processes, and perhaps we'll realise how tricky it can sometimes be to sit in judgment over other people.

  ami 04:02 25 Apr 2007

An interesting thread and as a member of the much-maligned Judiciary might I give my two cents worth?
I agree with FE that the more accessible our Courts are, and the more people can see the difficulty of sitting in judgement upon one’s fellow man, the better. I also agree with Spuds though, Court proceedings can (often) be very boring and it’s unlikely to make riveting viewing.
Johndrew is however quite wrong in asserting that television would make Judges apply the law the way the public wants, Judges would, as now, apply the law the way Parliament directs, that’s why it’s called the law and not a knee-jerk reaction.
As to opposition to the idea I’m not sure how the Judiciary as a whole would view (no pun intended) the idea but I suspect a lot less ‘anti’ than people anticipate.
In my view (there I go again) the main opposition is likely to come from defendants and witnesses. It’s difficult enough at present to get witnesses to come forward, the knowledge that their every word and action is being broadcast for the whole country to see may tend to deter them even further.
As for defendants, we all have our own personal views and prejudices and whilst Judges are trained to recognise and put these to one side the man in the street enjoys no such advantage. That doesn’t make Judges ‘better men’, just better trained and I fear that there is a very real danger of vigilante action against those whom the public perceive as guilty, if only on the ‘no smoke without fire’ principal, or against those whom the public feel have not been punished severely enough.
One has only to look at the public’s vilification of Maxine Carr and it’s reaction to her sentence to wonder how the more ‘ordinary’ criminal might fare at the hands of some sections of the community.
As I said at the beginning, an interesting thread, an idea not without merit perhaps, but not without pitfalls either. To quote Topcat, I too rest my case.

  Pine Man 08:59 25 Apr 2007

Why wait to watch on TV? Anybody can go and watch a court case now as, unless the case is to be held 'in camera' (closed to the public) courts are open to the public.

Having just read what I have written - isn't it strange that a closed court is called 'in camera' when it's exactly the opposite?

  Kate B 10:37 25 Apr 2007

Good post, ami; and good point about witnesses, but remember that witnesses are already named in press coverage of cases.

However, that raises the very interesting point of how very telly-literate so many people are: you don't have to be on the box very much for people to recognise you and I wonder if that would apply to witnesses.

I suspect not, actually, because witnesses would only be on once and for not too long (unless it were a really long complex trial). The other point about telly-literacy is that most of what's churned out is disposable, so yes, people do recognise people who are on the box even fleetingly, but equally, the viewing public moves on frighteningly quickly and forgets TV folk very quickly too.

  anskyber 11:06 25 Apr 2007

I also found ami's post interesting; the fears and worries are set out very well.

I think whenever we consider televised court rooms we inevitably think of the rather poor example offered to us by the USA. The sight of a Judge near to tears over the last resting place of a "celebrity" reached new depths.

We should not be swayed by such nonsense or by our recollections from Perry Mason or John Grisham novels. The pressure on TV to be impartial will be enormous and we must remember there are already suitable press watchdogs.(which may need revisiting)

I am no gratuitous defender of the press but I do think it is an area where we should trust them to do the job properly, I think they will. Perhaps for a 12 month trial period?

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