CHARLES GRAHAM - Don’t turn court into a TV show

COMMENTATORS singled out this year’s Queen’s Speech for its comparatively puny content more than anything else.

But even though there didn’t seem to be much to discuss in its aftermath other than its perceived lack of content, most media failed to mention proposals to introduce cameras into court hearings.

It has been a long time in coming of course and we are now in a dwindling minority of countries which haven’t already introduced such measures.

There is probably an inevitability about its arrival - after all no-one thinks twice about Parliament’s being televised now after all that early resistance. But, for me, the cameras can stay away.

No evidence has been presented that convinces me that justice has anything to gain from national broadcasting of a trial, and the serving of justice really must be the top if not the only criterion for cameras’ introduction.

The fact that lots of other countries already do it and that folk would be really interested to see what goes on inside a court room (and see if it resembles in any way the countless fictional presentations of proceedings in TV dramas) are just lame excuses.

My greatest fear isn’t this business of people “playing up to the cameras.” There’s enough of an audience there as it is for people (including legal representatives) to decide whether they are going to grandstand or not.

No, it troubles me that the presence of cameras might be the tipping point for dissuading witnesses from taking the stand. It’s hard enough to give evidence to a court room containing 12 jurors, a judge, legal teams, a few journalists and several dozen members of the public, especially if there are loyalties being betrayed, unseemly revelations being made or a risk of the barristers exposing some character or evidential flaw during cross-examination without the prospect of all this appearing on television as well.

If you want to see how a real court works, then you are perfectly entitled to go down to Wigan and Leigh Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Courts of Liverpool, Manchester, Bolton or Warrington and sit quietly in the public gallery.