1. ITV Report

Cameras in court: open justice or new reality TV?

Lord Bracadale handed down an 18-year sentence to David Gilroy in the first court recorded for TV Photo: PA

As I sat down in the public gallery of Court Number 3 at the Edinburgh Justiciary this morning I looked over at the jury box and saw - a television cameraman.

This was a sentencing, so I wasn't expecting to see a jury, but the sight of a cameraman was truly extraordinary.

Steve Kydd - from Scottish Television - turned and grinned at me. Then he stretched out his hands in front of him and started shaking them - 'comedy nervous' style.

I wouldn't have blamed him for feeling slightly apprehensive - rarely in the course of media history can one man's index finger have been put to such significant use.

For when the judge walked in and Steve pressed the record button on his camera, a new age dawned in the reporting of court cases.

In the event, it was, inevitably, an anti-climax.

Lord Justice Bracadale is clearly not a man given to showing off. He sentenced the murderer who was standing in the dock to the mandatory term of life imprisonment with the minimum of fuss.

But what a huge moment.

Applications from broadcasters to film inside courtrooms in Scotland will now be considered on a case-by-case basis, and legislation is being prepared to establish a similar system in England and Wales.

The justification? We have an open justice system, and television cameras enable the public to see justice being done in far greater numbers than can squeeze into the public galleries.

At the moment, the authorities in Edinburgh and London speak of allowing only the judge to be filmed, and only while he's passing sentence.

Will that be enough? Well, to use a crude televisual term, the 'money shot' when it comes to seeing justice done must surely be the look on the guilty person's face when sentence is passed, and at last they receive their just desserts.

There are huge issues of privacy here, and care must be taken to protect victims, vulnerable witnesses and even vulnerable offenders. We must also avoid the soap operas into which murder trials in the United States have often turned.

A new 'reality television' court cases must never be. But the media seek to serve the public appetite for pictures of the guilty - as the sight of photographers jamming their cameras against the windows of prison vans will tell you.

It's an appetite which may not be satiated by footage of a high court judge speaking measured words.

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