Leading article: Trial by soundbite: so why not go all the way and let the cameras in?

PITY THE poor jurors who, understandably, took the best part of two days to decide who deserved the greater humiliation: the corrupt and mendacious former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton, or the corrupt and mendacious owner of Harrods, Mohamed al Fayed.

Many people will have been relieved by the news that Mr Hamilton yesterday lost his libel suit against Mr Fayed. It would be logical if the sighs of relief were heard most loudly at Conservative Central Office, where strenuous attempts have been made to airbrush Mr Hamilton out of history. (Hamilton a prominent former Tory MP? Surely not.) Mr Hamilton's resurrection would have been a nightmare too far. "We need it like a hole in the head," as one senior Tory admitted in advance of the jury's verdict.

Not all of us can afford to feel so happy at the way that the case concluded. Every silver lining has its cloud, and the knowledge of Mr Hamilton's punctured pomposity will be mixed in many quarters with the realisation that we may be regaled, from now until kingdom come, with Mr Fayed's lunatic theories about the Duke of Edinburgh and the security services in an alleged conspiracy to murder Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales. "Christmas has come early," Mr Fayed said. Never has there been a less deserving recipient of Santa's goodwill.

The sad truth is that a victory for either side was doomed from the start to be a victory for neither. Both plaintiff and defendant look even more foolish than they did before the case began, if such a thing is possible. The judge wearily suggested in his summing-up to the jury that Mr Fayed had a "warped appreciation" of the difference between truth and fantasy. Hardly the "total vindication" that the Harrods owner was so quick to claim yesterday. Mr Hamilton must also repay pounds 1m in legal costs - though one need not feel too sorry for him and his ferociously loyal wife, Christine; a group of wealthy backers look set to pick up the tab. The lawyers are the only ones with any real reason to rejoice.

Much of the shenanigans in the Hamilton-Fayed case seemed implausible. Still, it was thoroughly entertaining in the grisly way that these things can be. As in the television series Neighbours from Hell, both sides were convinced of their own righteousness, even while reminding us how intolerable their own behaviour was. The spectacle was gruesomely addictive.

In that sense, one could perhaps argue that, for libel cases at least, the no-cameras rule in British courts should be lifted. In criminal cases the cameras are rightly kept out in order to avoid the dangers of witnesses playing to the gallery and, in so doing, reducing the chances of justice being done. In libel cases such as this one, however, both sides are ferociously intent on delivering a cluster of soundbites for that night's television news.

In such circumstances, one might as well broadcast the real-live soundbites, instead of hearing them second-hand from a court reporter. One could even ask for the permission of both the plaintiff and defendant: in a grand-standing case such as this one, both sides would no doubt agree.

It would not be real life; but at least it would be entertaining.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Jenny Lee may have left, but Miranda Hart and the rest of the midwives deliver the goods

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all