Scotland politics

Donald Findlay QC voices concerns over cameras in court

One of Scotland's leading QCs has told MSPs that any move to televise criminal trials would "put lives at risk".

Donald Findlay voiced his concerns over the issue to Holyrood's justice committee which is looking at the role of the media in criminal trials.

Mr Findlay said witnesses could feel added pressure if cameras were running.

The committee also heard from human rights solicitor, Aamer Anwar, who said he was worried about the "Hollywoodisation" of Scottish justice.

Addressing the committee, Mr Findlay said he would always be opposed to the broadcasting of criminal trials.

He had earlier told BBC Scotland that any moves towards this would be "over my dead body" and he talked of "real dangers" for all of those involved in a court case.

Mr Findlay said: "You put pressure on witnesses, it's difficult enough to get people to come forward, you put pressure on the citizen, on the accused, if you are acquitted why should you have your image blasted into every home by the television."

He added: "People who are convicted or acquitted of criminal charges could have their lives put at risk because there are people out there who may want to seek vengeance."

Mr Anwar branded any shift towards broadcasting trials as the "Hollywoodisation" of the criminal justice system. He said that would be "unacceptable" and he questioned the motives of Scotland's broadcasters.

He told the committee: "With the greatest respect for the media saying we have a genuine interest, your genuine interest is not concerned with justice, your interest is simply in getting cameras in there."

Since 1992 judges have had the power to allow restricted filming in Scottish courts which is subject to vetting by the court and broadcast at a later date.

Despite the change 20 years ago, permission has rarely been given.

In April of this year cameras were allowed to film the sentencing of David Gilroy for the murder of Suzanne Pilley.

Public interest

The Lockerbie bomber's appeal against his conviction was televised in 2002, and in 1996 the BBC were allowed to film the sentencing of two armed robbers.

Filming has been banned in English courts since 1925, but in the Queen's Speech this year, the UK government announced proposals to allow certain aspects of court proceedings to be filmed.

On behalf of the law journal, The Firm, Steven Raeburn said he did not see why televising court proceedings was so vastly different to streaming parliamentary business and is convinced "public interest is best served" by allowing cameras to film high profile trials.

Matt Roper, digital news editor of STV, wanted agreement on the "principle" of opening up the court system to more public scrutiny.

The committee also heard views from BBC Scotland and Victim Support. The evidence session will inform MSPs ahead of a full parliamentary debate on the issue later this month.

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