Cameras in court 'will let justice be seen to be done'

Edinburgh Television Festival: Lawyer advocates live coverage

RHYS WILLIAMS

Media Correspondent

One of Britain's leading barristers yesterday called for television cameras to be admitted into English courts to help demystify the legal process and restore public confidence in it.

Michael Mansfield, the campaigning QC whose successes include the acquittal of the Birmingham Six and Cardiff Three, told the Edinburgh International Television Festival that "justice has to be seen to be done".

Arguing in favour of "unadulterated, gavel-to-gavel" live coverage, Mr Mansfield said: "I'm not here to advocate some kind of entertainment or a commercial opportunity to make a quick buck out of justice. What I'm concerned about is justice being seen to be done. It is about protecting liberties and fundamental rights. The system has to be open to safeguard the right to know. You as taxpayer pay for the justice system, you have the right to see it in operation."

While there were public galleries in court houses, space was limited and the legal system too intimidating for people to want to attend, he said. The public's view of court was distorted byselective press coverage, he said, adding that had cameras been present to witness recent miscarriages of justice, "we might well have got very different results".

Mr Mansfield was supported by David Elstein, director of programmes at BSkyB, which is screening highlights of the OJ Simpson trial in the United States, and Nick Catliff, producer of the BBC documentary series The Trial, which saw cameras in Scottish courts for the first time.

Mr Catliff predicted that televised coverage of court proceedings in Britain would not lead to the media circus that has surrounded the OJ Simpson trial. "It's not the slippery slope. We have a completely different set of contempt of court laws. What is happening with OJ is happening outside court," he said.

Mr Catliff said that the initiative for The Trial had come from Lord Hope, Lord Justice-General of Scotland, who was anxious that the public did not understand and was losing faith in the courts.

Mr Elstein added that television was "by far the best way to open the court system to public view". However, another eminent QC, Gordon Pollock, believed that rather like exposing the Queen's lavatory to the country's gaze, television would lead to a "loss of dignity" in the institution.

Donald Findlay QC feared that ratings-hungry producers would plunder the courts for the most "salacious and violent" cases, giving a misleadingly selective view of the judicial process. "What you will get is edited highlights of what the producer or journalist believes is important," he said.

John Taylor, the former Conservative Party candidate for Cheltenham and a practising lawyer, said that while current press coverage of the courts was not perfect, television would make it worse. "Once you allow cameras into courts, there is no turning back. You will say that there will be conditions [of access], but I think there will be constant pressure on the judiciary to relax those conditions."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Trade Advisers - Yorkshire and Humber

£29500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company in Yorkshire and t...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Resource Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing experience-led technology co...

Recruitment Genius: Production Scientist

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the...

Recruitment Genius: Factory Manager - Food

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable