Falkirk courtroom’s not a place for cameras

Could we soon see our courts on the telly?
Could we soon see our courts on the telly?

Local lawyers have come out against allowing TV cameras into courtrooms.

Holyrood’s justice committee has been looking at the role of the media in criminal trials following a shift in the law which allows filming in English courts for the first time in decades.

Some Scottish broadcasters now want to open the court system up to more public scrutiny.

However, high-profile legal figures such as Donald Findlay QC have spoken out against cameras covering criminal 

Since 1992, judges have had the power to allow some filming inside Scottish courts, but this has happened on only rare occasions.

In Falkirk, solicitors expressed concern about how cameras in court could compromise the legal process.

Gordon Addison, a partner at Nelsons Solicitors in Camelon, is involved with organising mock trials for youngsters at Falkirk Sheriff Court to let them see how courts work.

But he believes there is no reason to bring television cameras into courtrooms.

He said: “The courts are important public buildings and are located to enable members of the public to participate and spectate at public trials and hearings. Accordingly there is no need to televise proceedings.

“There are legitimate concerns about the editing of televised proceedings, anonymity of the accused, witnesses, jurors and staff as well as the importance of retaining the dignity of the processes.

“It’s currently competent to televise some proceedings within stipulated guidelines, but there does not appear to be a demand for such programmes.”

Neil Hay, a solicitor advocate with Falkirk’s MTM Defence Lawyers, which has offices in Cockburn Street, and a part-time university law tutor, argues that TV cameras could damage the right of the accused to a fair, dignified trial.

He said: “I am not in favour of TV cameras recording court cases. I believe that it is likely to be detrimental to the interests of justice. I suspect witnesses may become more reluctant to give evidence, for fear of being identified in the media, perhaps with their evidence subjected to negative coverage, or themselves being subject to intimidation or retaliation.

“Alternatively some witnesses may view TV coverage as an opportunity to dramatise or embellish their evidence, perhaps to impress their watching friends or families. Furthermore let’s not forget that the accused themselves are innocent until proven guilty.

“Why should an acquitted accused have to spend the rest of their lives dealing with the possible after effects of televised trial?

He went on: “However, I am in favour of greater public education about the conduct of Scottish courts.

“Many assume Scottish courts, and in particular Scottish criminal trials, resemble fictional television dramas from England, or worse, America. In reality they are very different, and much less dramatic.

“Courts are open to the public, so anyone interested in finding out more only has to go down to their local Sheriff Court to see what happens.“