Televise Supreme and Appeal Court hearings, says Neuberger

first_imgSome court hearings should be televised to increase public confidence in the justice system, the master of the rolls said this week. Giving the Judicial Studies Board annual lecture, Lord Neuberger suggested Supreme Court hearings and some Court of Appeal hearings should be televised on an equivalent of the Parliament Channel, or via BBC iPlayer. He noted that Brazil’s Federal Supreme Tribunal has its own TV channel, TV Justica, which shows recordings of its sessions and educational programmes about the justice system. Neuberger said that any such plan would have to be looked at carefully, and if it were to go ahead, the judge or judges in the case concerned would have to have full rights of veto over what would be broadcast. He said: ‘If we wish to increase public confidence in the justice system, transparency and engagement, there is undoubtedly something to be said for televising some hearings, provided that there were proper safeguards to ensure that this increased access did not undermine the proper administration of justice.’ Neuberger said that while the justice system may need to adapt to ensure it remains truly open to the public, it was not the function of the courts or the judges to adjust their procedures or working practices ‘with a view to stimulating public interest’ or to ‘curry favour’ with the public. Neuberger also welcomed the lord chief justice’s interim guidance on tweeting in courts, published in February. ‘Why force a journalist or a member of the public to rush out of court in order to telephone or text the contents of his notes written in court, when he can tweet as unobtrusively as he can write?’ he said. He added: ‘It seems to me, in principle, that tweeting is an excellent way to inform and engage interested members of the public, as well as the legal profession.’ The head of the civil courts was speaking on the importance of open justice and the role it played in supporting the rule of law. ‘Public scrutiny of the courts is an essential means by which we ensure that judges do justice according to the law, and thereby secure public confidence in the courts and the law,’ he said. He added that for justice to be seen to be done, judgments must be understandable, not just to lawyers, but, ‘in an age when it seems more likely that citizens will have to represent themselves’, to non-lawyers as well. Neuberger said politicians also had a role to play by ensuring new legislation was drafted clearly, avoiding the ‘inexorable volume, tedious length and the inept drafting’ of many acts that have found their way onto the statute book in recent years.last_img

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