15 Sep 2012

TV court coverage 'demeans justice system'

6:52 pm on 15 September 2012

Law Society president Jonathan Temm is calling for a review of the way television is used in court, saying it is not delivering what was promised when televised court proceedings began in the mid 1990s.

Mr Temm was speaking on Saturday at the International Criminal congress meeting in Queenstown.

He says television was permitted in criminal courts to promote open justice, to educate and inform the public.

But instead, he says, New Zealand has ended up with television journalists who are more commentators and opinion offerers.

"They are giving their own impression of the evidence and it's not an accurate recording at all of what was in the courthouse on any given day."

Mr Temm says television networks are now interested only in high profile cases and engage in public odium of the accused before the verdict, criticising the defence position, demeaning the justice system and eroding confidence.

He says examples of poor television coverage include the Clayton Weatherston murder trial in 2009 and the Ewen MacDonald murder trial this year.

Mr Temm recommends a system used at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, where proceedings are broadcast live and uninterrupted, without editing or any commentator.