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Televising of the Courts – Opposition

September 6th 2011

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale has this (Tuesday) morning spoken out against proposals to permit the televising a part of some court hearings.
The former television producer and director was one of the leading opponents of the televising of the House of Commons and asserts that nothing since that experiment began has persuaded him that television cameras have any place in parliament or in the law courts.
“The Chairman of the DCMS Select Committee has said that he cannot imagine anyone now opposing the televising of parliament” says Gale. “I am happy to introduce him to one such person: myself!
When the proposition to televise the House of Commons was introduced I said that it would lead to “grandstanding” and to the cherry-picking of newsworthy items at the expense of the real work of the House.  I believe that that criticism was well-founded and that precisely the same objections apply to the proposed televising of selective extracts from court hearings.
A former Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons said of their televising that “Before we allowed the cameras in the public were ill-informed. Now they are mis-informed”. He was exactly right.  What most people see of the Commons is PMs Question Time and selected “juicy” extracts chosen to spice up television news bulletins.  There is no doubt that the presence of television cameras has introduced the “Perry Mason” effect to Select Committees as MPs vie with each other to be seen to be grand inquisitors and the drudgery of the work of Standing Committees – the heart of the legislative process – is not televised at all. 
I believe that the televising of the closing speeches in law courts and the passing of sentences will create the same effect as “thrusting” barristers seek to impress the media with fee-improving “performances” and the more eccentric members of the judiciary use the TV platform to address the nation.
The Courts are supposed to be a place where justice is done and where it is, by those actually present and listening to the evidence, seen to be done. That must not be allowed to change.
The question also needs to be asked “Why criminal cases”?  To which the answer, of course, is that that is where the “drama” is. The drudgery of most civil work, like the tedium of Standing Committees, is not “exciting” enough to warrant media attention.
Once again this is not about “transparency” or “democracy” it is about Television showbusiness and we do not need our law courts to be turned into yet another “reality” TV “show”.

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