Oscar Pistorius trial raises questions about televised proceedings, warns Lord Chief Justice


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The Independent Online

The dramatic scenes witnessed across the world at the Oscar Pistorius murder trial have raised concerns about filming legal proceedings, the Lord Chief Justice has warned.

Lord Thomas, head of the judiciary in England and Wales, told the Lords constitution committee he was "very troubled by what has happened in South Africa" and called for a "pause" before making any more decisions about televised trials.

The ongoing murder trial against the South African athlete has ignited a global media frenzy and viewers have watched an emotional Pistorius break down at the sight of graphic evidence, crying and vomiting in court.

His dramatic outbursts have been called into question by chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel, who suggested the athlete turned to crying to avoid tough questions about the night he shot and killed his girlfriend.

Last month, the athlete's legal team was forced to issue a statement denying Pistorius took acting classes ahead of his murder trial following accusations that he was faking his tears for the cameras.


Lord Thomas' comments come after Keir Starmer, former Director of Public Prosecutions, predicted that cameras could broadcast live from criminal courts in Britain "within the next five years".

He told the Daily Mail: "The principle is open justice and there's a disconnect between the fact we've got a right to walk into any court but it can't be screened. Most people don't have the time to go to court and therefore they don't know what's going on in courts.

"And it is odd that I suspect in most households the legal system in Italy because of the Amanda Knox case, in South Africa because of the Pistorius case and then the US because of OJ Simpson are better known than their own legal systems."

Mr Starmer suggested that making televised trials the norm would remove the sensationalist element seen in recent high profile cases such as the Max Clifford trial.

Arguments and remarks made by lawyers and judges can be filmed at the Court of Appeal, but victims and defendants are not shown. Hearings at the Supreme Court are also televised.

Cameras are not allowed in Crown Courts and Magistrates' courts.