16 Sep 2012

Minister welcomes live court coverage idea

2:48 pm on 16 September 2012

Courts Minister Chester Borrows is welcoming a suggestion that court cases be broadcast live and uninterrupted, though he says there are no plans for live-streaming over the internet in the immediate future.

Law Society president Jonathan Temm floated the idea at a criminal law conference in Queenstown on Saturday.

Mr Temm said the role of television reporting in court cases needs to be reviewed because it creates a sensationalised version of court room events.

He says he prefers the idea of live streaming of court cases, without editing or commentary, as used by the International Criminal Court at the Hague.

Mr Borrows says it's a good idea and would increase public scrutiny of the courts.

The minister says cases may be live-streamed over the internet in the future but there are no plans to do that in the short-term.

He says decisions about whether television cameras should continue to be allowed in court rooms is a question for the judiciary.

Prominent defence lawyer Judith Ablett-Kerr agrees with Mr Temm and says television coverage of jury trials has descended into "an abyss of voyeurism".

Ms Ablett-Kerr says television reportage undermines understanding and respect for the justice system, and appeals to the type of emotion which is the enemy of good justice.

She says when television coverage of court cases began in the mid-1990s some initial reporting was balanced and fair, but the medium no longer informs or educates.

Criminal Bar Association president Tony Bouchier is backing the call for a review of television coverage of court cases.

He says the edited footage does not truly reflect events in court. "If they're going to report on it, it should be a little bit like Parliament - to show the entire case."

Mr Bouchier says print journalists tend to do the best job of reporting court cases because they do not rely on soundbites.