Review of court TV promised

By Andrew Koubaridis, Isaac Davison

Justice Minister Judith Collins.  Photo / APN
Justice Minister Judith Collins. Photo / APN

Justice Minister Judith Collins has promised a review of television cameras in courts following "reality television"-style coverage of the Scott Guy murder trial.

Mrs Collins said it could be "too emotive" and often resembled reality TV - to the extent the Guy trial had been so intrusive that it threatened to re-victimise witnesses.

"You had Kylee Guy and Anna Guy, cameras trained on them ... it was good TV but it was nothing to do with the justice system.

"It abused those women by having them in their moments of raw emotion beamed into everybody's TV screens at night. That is not good for the judicial system, and it is not good for those people who have been through hell, to see it time and time again."

TV cameras were introduced into courtrooms in 1995. Mrs Collins said she would review the policy and speak to victim advocacy groups to find a resolution which did not undermine transparency in the courtroom.

The president of the New Zealand Law Society, Jonathan Temm, told an international gathering of lawyers this month he wanted a review of televised reporting because it was "edited and sensationalism".

Mr Temm said murder trials like that of Clayton Weatherston and the Kahui twins inquest were examples of court cases that had caused ill-informed and misinformed debate because of television coverage.

"Criminal court proceedings do not need any additional overlay of sensationalism or reality TV drama scripting. Truth is much stranger than fiction."

He accused the coverage of being driven by the "shock factor" and heavily edited so that, despite its claims, it was not reality.

He said television could create hatred of the accused before the verdict. "In the Clayton Weatherston trial, the accused was portrayed by the television media in a particular way."

But Lesley Elliott, the mother of Weatherston's victim, said it was Weatherston who was responsible.

"It shows them for what they are, to be quite honest. I know at that time they haven't been proven guilty ... But aren't we showing who they really are?"

She watched television news coverage of the Ewen Macdonald trial and did not think it was sensational.

"I don't know whether it's sensational - I guess some people could look at it like that, defence lawyers would. They're up there performing anyway," Mrs Elliott said.

Auckland Crown Solicitor Simon Moore, SC, has concerns about the role the news media could have on the "fair trial process".

"Where I do get concerned is when a figure or participant in the trial process has either been demonised or made a martyr by the media."

A spokesman for the judges said the media guidelines were reviewed on an "ongoing basis".

"The recent expression of views ... will be included as part of that process."

- NZ Herald

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