Criminal Trials Possibly to be Televised

The Sunday Times Scotland gave front-page treatment yesterday to an exclusive story in which Scotland’s Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, outlined how criminal trials could be broadcast on television.

The new Lord Advocate unveiled plans to allow cameras to routinely film some of the biggest cases in Scotland. Broadcasters could film trials and televise the footage after a verdict has been delivered.

In an interview with Lorraine Davidson, Mullholland revealed he will give the go-ahead for filming in courts in an attempt to increase public confidence in the system.

He is quoted by the Sunday Times Scotland, as saying: “It's the public's criminal justice system; they're paying for it, and we have to shine a light on it and allowing cameras into courts would help to achieve that. The courts exist for the people, not the lawyers.”

Says the newspaper, court proceedings north of the border have only been recorded as part of pilot projects. In Britain, only the proceedings and judgements of the Supreme Court can be televised.

Adds Davidson: “The Lord Advocate’s decision to televise court proceedings has divided legal opinion. Donald Findlay QC said: ‘This will happen over my dead body. If people are interested in watching the proceedings of a court they are welcome to get on a bus and come to the court’.

“He added: 'Far from increasing confidence in the system this could easily do the reverse. If people are only shown edited highlights, they could form the opinion ‘he got away with it’ – alternatively they could conclude the sentence was harsh. Apart from the fact witness might also start to act up for the cameras, its difficult enough to get people to come to court to testify without this’.”