Au pair attacks cameras in court

Edinburgh Television Festival: Woodward says TV distorted her trial, while fly-on-the-wall shows take centre stage
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The Independent Online
LOUISE WOODWARD spoke out against the use of television cameras in courtrooms yesterday, despite the part they played in starting the campaign that fought for her early release from jail.

The British au pair complained that the televising of her trial last year had given her unwanted celebrity and had led to the trivialising of her trial for the murder of baby Matthew Eappen.

Speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Ms Woodward said: "People are not able to distinguish between notoriety and celebrity. I never wanted to be in this position. I don't want to be a minor celebrity - I am not famous for anything good and people ask me to sign baseball caps.

"I am trying to be a normal 20-year-old and people won't let me do that."

The former au pair complained that every day she gets questions from the media about where she is going to university, when she is getting married or if she plans to have children.

"When I was on holiday, paparazzi-style photographs of me on the beach were taken by members of the public and sold to the press." She added: "I have only ever signed one autograph because the woman wouldn't let me out of the restaurant and I was embarrassed. When I can, I say no. I just hope my face will fade in people's memories."

She said that her notoriety all stemmed from the televising of her trial: "I was never asked if I wanted cameras in the courtroom ... I would have said no.It is hard enough to stand handcuffed in the dock without a camera trying to get a clear shot of my hands."

She said because of the cameras her behaviour in the courtroom, rather than the evidence, became the focus of news reports. Her giggle was given great significance and because she couldn't get a haircut or use make- up in prison she was dubbed the "Nanny from Hell". When she changed her hairstyle, she said she was accused of trying to look "sweet and innocent".

But she did not deny that the cameras may have contributed to her release after her manslaughter conviction, when she was given a sentence already covered by the time she had served.

"I couldn't say what influenced the judge," she said. "I hope he based his decision on law, not on public opinion. Do we really want the public to be policing the courts? Should we just replace 12 people as a jury with an opinion poll on [the television chat show] Richard and Judy?"

She added: "Television turns a courtroom into a soap opera, turns it into entertainment, but a courtroom is a serious place dealing with people's lives."

Ms Woodward was accompanied at the session by her lawyer Barry Scheck, who argued that the televising of hertrial had made things more difficult for the defence lawyers.

He claimed that it reduced the case to a debate about childcare, and the implication was that Louise Woodward had been given too much responsibility and had snapped under the pressure. He said the trial jury was not sequestered, and he assumed they had been watching the television coverage.