TV in court

I was asked to appear in a debate on Sky News this evening to talk about TV cameras being allowed into court rooms.  I didn't do it for one simple reason.  I've put my back out and can barely walk never mind ride a motorbike to a TV studio then concentrate on and take part in a serious debate.  So, I thought I'd put a short discussion up on here instead.

I am personally quite apathetic toward the whole idea.  As a lawyer I obviously love the sound of my own voice so any chance to appear on TV and have a video of myself talking is a very welcome opportunity.

On the one hand, I can see that witnesses might be put off by the idea of appearing in court knowing that what they say will be filmed.  But, I suspect that you might also find that some victims welcome the idea of the chance to tell their side of the story and expose the person who has done something to them as dishonest, violent, or whatever the offence happens to be. 

It's also important to remember that courts already have powers in place to protect witnesses and make the giving of evidence much easier for them.  For example, I conducted a trial recently where the defendant was accused of ABH on his two-year-old daughter.  For obvious reasons the daughter wasn't giving evidence; however, her mother did give evidence.  In that case the mother had told the police that she wasn't happy being questioned by the defendant so the court barred him from asking her questions.  He therefore had to instruct me to conduct the cross-examination.  The court can also order screens to be put in place that prevent both the defendant and anybody in the public gallery from seeing the witness.  There is also the option of evidence being given via a video link where the screens are only viewable by the lawyers, judge and jury. 

So, we can see that in reality there is no reason why the quality of evidence should be hampered by the introduction of televised trials.

In favour of introducing television cameras to court is the argument that at present many people seem to think that courts let people off easily or that courts are heavily biased in favour of the guilty.  People also have the odd idea that sentences are far more lenient than they would like - something which is consistently disproved when the public are given the facts of crimes and asked to pass the sentence they feel appropriate.  Allowing courts to be televised will let people see what really happens, why decisions are really made and how courts arrive at the sentences they impose on people.

On the whole I think that televised court rooms is probably a good idea.

Comments

  1. As a layman I can only look at the example of the House of Commons, where the already-poor quality of debate dropped sharply once politicians realised they could be on television: it became all about sound-bites and grandstanding. I don't see why judges should be given an even harder time of keeping order than they have already.

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  2. I don't think that judges have a particularly hard time controlling their courts at the moment and I don't see that changing with the introduction of televised courts.

    One reason why politicians go in for the sound bite is because their objective is ultimately to get on TV to get more publicity so they get re-elected at the next election or promoted in Government, etc.

    The objective of the lawyer is, of course, to build his reputation but he won't do that by making silly sound bites but then losing cases. In the end, for a lawyer to get a great reputation he needs to win.

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