i Editor's Letter: Cameras in court


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The Independent Online


Only one in every 36 pound coins in circulation is fake, according to the Royal Mint – but in London it’s much higher than that, you’ll find two or three in a fistful of change. One of the cretins responsible for this corruption of our currency made history yesterday. Kevin Fisher from Goffs Oak, Herts, was the first to have his case televised live from court (page 9). He’s serving seven years for counterfeiting and was appealing his sentence. (Unsuccessfully, it turned out.) His QC, Alex Cameron, brother of our PM, became the first barrister to broadcast from inside an English courtroom after the 88-year ban on photography was lifted. Consideration is now being given to allowing cameras into criminal courts. Hello, 20th century!

We have been able to see justice being done all over the world, but not at home. Some in our judiciary oppose televised proceedings, fearing that broadcasters will gravitate towards the salacious and the gruesome, that lawyers and witnesses (and, dare we suggest it, a few judges) will showboat in pursuit of a television spectacle inconducive to justice.

But yesterday’s network premiere was, in the end, a dull affair, more typical of daily court life than the Judge Judy slapstick which we are accustomed to seeing on the box. While court cases must not become a new form of reality telly, it is within the boundaries of the human imagination to set rules that might allow the broadcasting of (say) judges’ summing-up and barristers’ opening and closing statements – thus protecting the anonymity of victims, witnesses and jurors, and sparing cross-examination further theatrics.

After TV, how about the internet? It’s taken the English judiciary 85 years since the first telly broadcast to let this wizard invention be used in court. So we can expect accurate, searchable court listings to be made available to the public online in 2076.