Judith Collins: 'Appalled' by cameras in court

Justice Minister Judith Collins.
Photo / File
Justice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / File

Justice Minister Judith Collins says she is appalled by reality television-like coverage of trials like the Scott Guy murder case and will look at restricting cameras in courts.

Her comments come after Law Society president Jonathan Temm last week called for cameras to be banned in court to prevent misrepresentation of evidence.

Ms Collins told TV's The Nation she was not comfortable with cameras in court because they sensationalised a few moments of evidence.

She pointed to coverage of the trial of Feilding farmer Ewen Macdonald, who was acquitted of murdering his brother-in-law Scott Guy.

"It was sensationalised to the extent that it was almost like reality television and I don't think that does justice any good. At the same token we do need to be aware that justice needs to be seen to be done,'' Ms Collins said.

"I'm actually appalled by some of the coverage, the fact a jury hears all of the evidence. One of the problems with the cameras used as they are is that we see a tiny snippet and it's normally of someone about to cry, or crying, and frankly that does not give any indication of the evidence that a jury is hearing.''

Ms Collins said she would look at restricting cameras in court.

Asked whether judges should be able to compel defendants like Macdonald to give evidence at trial, Ms Collins said she would look at judges being able to comment on a defendant exercising their right to silence.

"I think the best that we could ever do is to have a situation where a judge might comment on the fact that someone hasn't given evidence. But you can't actually force someone to say something.''

Ms Collins also defended the practice of withholding evidence from juries.

The jury in the Macdonald trial was not told he had pleaded guilty to killing 19 calves with a hammer, destroying thousands of dollars of milk and burning down a hunting hide.

"If for instance the jury had known about the appalling attacks on those little calves, I doubt whether any jury would say, `Well actually, I can now look at that man and give him a fair hearing.' I think that would be very hard, and I think the judge made the right decision.''

Commenting generally, Ms Collins said it was better to have a system where a guilty person went free than one where an innocent person was wrongly convicted.

Ms Collins said juries mostly got it right and trial by jury was "absolutely one of our pillars of our justice system''.

- APNZ

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