The Canadian Bar Association
Criminal

Cameras let public 'attend' trials: Niman

The decision to open some Manitoba courts to cameras is a "meaningful boon to access to justice" and the judges in that province should be applauded, says Toronto criminal lawyer Richard Niman.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, he says the notion of allowing cameras into the courtroom is a positive move forward, as long as there are adequate protections in place.

“Too often, a layperson’s understanding of how our criminal justice system functions is based on American television programs that differ significantly from the Canadian process,” says Niman, associate with Brauti Thorning Zibarras LLP.

More importantly, he says, allowing television cameras in courtrooms serves to expand the ability of the public to “attend” trials that are otherwise open to the public.

Manitoba judges have decided to permit TV cameras inside courtrooms in that province for some hearings. For the first time, they have allowed the media to broadcast a murder trial verdict.

Ontario, however, hasn’t yet opened the door to allowing cameras in the courtroom.

Niman tells the online legal news service that the downside to this is the threat of jury tampering or the cameras having an impact on the fair trial process.

But, he says, this risk is mitigated in the situations where the Manitoba courts are allowing this practice. For example, in the Cassandra Knott murder trial – the first verdict that was broadcast in the province – all of the evidence has already been entered and the jury has finished its deliberations.

“As such, there is no threat to tampering with the jury or otherwise affecting a fair trial process,” he says.

Niman explains that in the appellate context, the downside is even less of a concern because the trial has finished and it is merely being heard by a reviewing court.

“Moreover, the standard has already been set in this regard by our nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada – almost all appeals heard by the SCC are broadcast live online,” he says.



 

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