Norfolk

Norfolk judge calls for 'traumatic' court scenes to be televised

  • 25 October 2012
  • From the section Norfolk

A judge has said some traumatic scenes in court should be televised to show the devastation wreaked by road deaths.

Judge Peter Jacobs jailed a 19-year-old woman on Wednesday over a crash in Norfolk which killed her friend.

Eleanor Coleman, her family and that of victim Ellie Tweed, 18, wept openly at Norwich Crown Court.

Judge Jacobs said he was not generally in favour of cameras in court but "people need to see the effect that death has" in particular cases.

'Indescribable grief'

Speaking to the BBC, he added: "I don't think it's a good idea to have televisions in court normally because court isn't theatre and also you have to think about the effect on the witnesses and the jurors, who will then be seen by everybody.

"There's enough trauma involved in court cases as it is."

But he said he was in favour of sentencing hearings being televised in certain cases involving fatal road accidents.

"In this particular case, I think people need to see the effect that death has - the effect that road accident deaths have," he said.

"It's traumatic.

"You have got the grieving relatives. You have often got the defendant in the dock who wishes it had never happened or in other cases a truly dreadful defendant who has a series of previous convictions.

"I do think people need to see the trauma of cases like this."

He added the grief and recriminations in such cases was "indescribable".

"I would like to think it would make people think twice," he said.

"At least if they had seen what I see on a regular basis at Norwich Crown Court they might stop and think."

'Never forgive myself'

Coleman, of Runham, near Great Yarmouth, was driving with Miss Tweed and three other teenage girls in her car when she crashed into the back of a lorry.

The five friends had been on a Halloween night out in Norwich and were returning home to Acle early on 1 November last year when Coleman crashed in a layby on the A47.

Image caption Ellie Tweed was on her way home from a Halloween party with friends when she was killed

She admitted causing death by careless driving and was sentenced to 15 months in prison. She also received a three-year driving ban.

A statement from Coleman, read out in court by her barrister, Michael Clare, said: "I hate myself for everything that has happened and I will never forgive myself."

Sentencing Coleman, Judge Jacobs said: "If I could put the clock back... I would do so.

"But I'm not a god. Whatever sentence I pass it will satisfy nobody.

"You were tired, not in the mindset to drive at all. You will regret this for the rest of your life."

Judge Jacobs said he had to leave court for 15 minutes to compose himself following the sentencing.

Filming in courts is currently banned by two Acts of Parliament.

In September last year, the then Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said television cameras should be allowed into criminal courts in England and Wales.

No timescale was given to the plan to broadcast footage of the judge's sentencing remarks in the Court of Appeal, eventually expanding to crown courts. The legislation is currently making its way through parliament.

The Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We are bringing the concept of open justice into the modern age and in doing so we will make the courts more accessible to the public than ever before.

"People have always had the right to go to watch proceedings in courts but in reality very few actually do.

"By allowing broadcasting from courts we are now enabling many members of the public to see, for the first time, court proceedings as they happen."

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