When I heard the news that a Scottish court case was to be broadcast for the first time ever, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the prospect.
My gut feeling on this is that trials should not be seen as entertainment and we should leave the legal professionals to get on with it.
On the other hand, the argument that trials are hugely in the public interest and should be accessible is a powerful one.
After realising it was to be a hearing for Alistair Carmichael, the idea sat a little better with me, as surely if anyone can handle pressure from the media and should be held publicly accountable, it’s an MP.
No less than a couple of days later, the announcement came that Alexander Pacteau’s sentencing was to be broadcast live.
During sentencing for the murder of Karen Buckley, viewers could watch Judge Lady Rae hand out a 23 year sentence and special permission was granted for journalists to tweet live from court, something which is usually forbidden.
There seems to be a move towards televised court proceedings in Scotland and although I think the two that have appeared on air so far can be justified, I’m not sure it’s something I would like to see becoming the norm.
The reality of a hearing or even a criminal trial is far removed from typical court room dramas we see on prime time slots and some viewers were not at all impressed with what they saw in the Carmichael hearing. Court room drama it was not!
I think it’s fair to say these two examples have been handled appropriately and if it allows people to learn about the legal world, it can only be a good thing.
But to me, trials should not be seen as some kind of reality show and there’s a danger this could happen if they are broadcast regularly.