Court on camera

Justice must be seen to be done

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As a newspaper that has campaigned to remove secrecy from the justice system, most notably in the courts of protection, the decision to open certain proceedings in the Court of Appeal to the cameras is very welcome to the Independent.

The authorities are right to be wary of extending cameras into other courts, but there is no reason of principle why they should not do so. The dangers are there, but the Americans have lived for many years with routine televised coverage and, on balance, the risks taken have been worthwhile. The same goes for Scotland, Canada and other jurisdictions where it has been tried. 

Cases involving celebrities – the O J Simpson trial stands out – will prove no less gripping and the many, many dull cases that grind their way through the system will be no less dull for this innovation. If some of the trials are “entertainment” that is because of the nature of them, not because the TV cameras have intruded. There are defects in the US system of criminal justice, as in this country, but they do not lie primarily in the public’s ability see what is happening, effectively, in its name.

As when Parliament was televised a quarter of a century ago, the participants will need a short period of adjustment before the innovation  is seen as natural. It will add to public understanding of, and confidence in, the legal system. Fairly soon those involved will forget the cameras are there, forgo any temptation to play to them, and get on with the job. The more of us who can see justice being done, the better.

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