High-profile state court cases should be filmed and publically broadcast, according to SA Law Society president, David Caruso said.
Caruso, who began his one-year term this month making him the youngest ever SA Society president at 33, think that broadcasting cases will promote open justice and popular understanding of the system.
“Provided the proceedings were appropriate for broadcast, and those who were being broadcast consented to it, there is no reason why technology should not give us every reason to consider public access to justice being more than just physically attending,” Caruso said, citing the Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa as an example of where broadcasting was key in public understanding of the verdict.
The SA Opposition has strongly backed the suggestion while the government has said that selective broadcasting could do “more harm than good”.
“Public televising is just modern communication of it being an open court system,” said opposition deputy leader Vickie Chapman.
“In the criminal law system, yes that can be done, and it should be done.”
In an interview with The Advertiser,
Caruso also suggested major changes to the way courts are managed, including taking the approach of the Federal Court by having a single judge run cases from start to finish, in a bid to cut costs and remove backlogs. He also suggested elements of the European inquisitorial system where judges could ask more questions and take a role on witness selection to speed up judgements.
Courts have the power to allow filming of cases but it is rarely used. In 2013, the Supreme Court rules were changed to allow Twitter-reporting.
“Our courts are open. Anyone can go there anytime, but we’re all busy people,” Caruso said.
“Provided the proceedings were appropriate for broadcast, and those who were being broadcast consented to it, there is no reason why technology should not give us every reason to consider public access to justice being more than just physically attending.
“As technology improves, and can be introduced into courtrooms in less intrusive ways, there is no reason the legal profession would not welcome consideration of being publicly accessible.”
He did note that controls were needed, along with victim and witness consent.
“Broadcasting of court proceedings raises many issues,” said acting Attorney-General Susan Close.
“Selective broadcasting may do more harm to public understanding of the justice system than the status quo.”