We have previously discussed how privatized and secretive courts and their proceedings can be, and in addition the lack of public who visit courts. Furthermore, we have briefly scratched the surface in the matter of allowing television in court, and a recent article published by Crikey has opened this up to further deliberation.
If we look back just a bit, it becomes clear this issue has been under debate for several years. Marsh & Melville (2009) evaluate the first trial filming at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Scotland. Discussion of the trial concluded that the filming made for good television; it received a huge amount of press coverage, and was watched by healthy audiences. This suggests that filming court proceedings may be a solution to the lack of public attendance and awareness of this element of the criminal justice system.
Cameras in court enable justice to be seen, and thus filming may assure the public that the court systems are doing a fine job, more so than the portrayals of courts accessible through fictional television dramas and sensationalized documentaries.
In addition to the aforementioned pros, there are also cons to this proposal. As seen in the past, filming in court may see ‘justice being reduced to voyeuristic entertainment’ (Stepniak, 2003); most of these situations involved high profile cases, for example the OJ Simpson and Menendez brothers murder trials.
Tom Cowie of Crikey posted an interesting article last month on the possibility of cameras in courts. He describes how Victoria’s Chief Justice has suggested that courts should publish a weekly online newspaper to provide reasons for judge’s decisions. She said ‘judges had come under increasing attacks from the media’ and they should ‘break their traditional code of silence’ (Crikey, 2010). Judge Warren said “They (judges) are vulnerable to the news-hungry commentaries who will usually focus on the outcome, not the reasoned process to reach the outcome, then deplore the result if it is unpopular and proceed to criticise the judge.” (Crikey, 2010).
Clearly some see this idea as a solution to the media, others may suggest it opens up the courts to more criticism or may catch judges ‘spinning’. So should courts embrace technology and broadcast proceedings, or even host online newspapers? Does there need to be regulations to ensure proper restraints? Will producing transparency be a better way for people to understand the administration of justice?
Food for thought.
Cowie, T 2010, ‘Better than online, TV in courts… under oath the camera doesn’t lie’, Crikey, 23 September 2010, retrieved 21 October 2010, Crikey database.
Marsh, I & Melville, G 2009, Crime, Justice and the Media’, Routledge, New York.
Stepniak, D 2003, ‘British Justice: Not suitable for public viewing’ in Mason, P (ed.), Criminal Visions: Media Representations of Crime and Justice, Willan Publishing, Cullompton.