England, Wales, Bain, Weatherston : televising of court proceedings

The first Justices of the Supreme Court, who currently hear appeals in Parliament, will take up their new posts in October 2009, with Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers becoming the first President of the Supreme Court.   An interesting aspect is that the new court  will allow its proceedings to be televised when they are asked by the media.  This will be the first time court proceedings in England or Wales will have been televised (it already takes place in Scotland but in a limited manner).

It will be interesting to see what stance the Supreme Court takes about televising of events and whether this will be rolled out into other courts across England and Wales.   The media in New Zealand is allowed to film court proceedings, and frequently does so, particularly high-profile cases.  In the Clayton Weatherston trial there was one particularly well-aired clip of apparently humorous comment from the Defendant during his cross-examination by the Crown Prosecutor, which certainly seemed to paint the Defendant in an unflattering light (for those who are not aware of the trial, the Defendant was found guilty of murder and should be sentenced on 15 September ’09).

Prior to the David Bain retrial there was much comment in the media about how the proceedings would be covered.  Initially, the Judge ruled that the entire proceedings could be streamed on the internet, albeit with a ten minute delay. I understand that this was OK until it was realised that the camera wasn’t turned off during a closed Chambers meeting, which was held in court (only one film camera and one stills camera were allowed in court, so I assume the networks shared the footage).  The whole of the Chambers discussion was apparently streamed on the internet, even though it was supposed to be private.  After that, restrictions were placed on filming.

At some time during the Crown case (I don’t know the exact timing) the instruction was that the media was only allowed to film David Bain for the first fifteen minutes of each day.  When the news was shown later that day it sometimes it showed a clip of David Bain that appeared to be contemporaneous with some piece of evidence that had just been given when, in fact, the evidence had been given at a time when the media wasn’t actually filming him.  Sometimes, the continuity on the news was such that the Defendant appeared to have changed his tie part way through the day’s proceedings.  I understand that observant trial-watchers noted these things and the question appears to have been discussed in the public gallery as to whether such broadcasting was an accurate record of events (for those who are not aware of the retrial, in June ’09 the Defendant was found not guilty on five counts of murder).

What will the BBC and ITV do when the time comes?


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