Court cameras would not reveal enough

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Your report (3 February) contends that filming criminal trials “could work positively in enabling a broader understanding of court procedure and how the legal process works”. Maybe.

However, much of how the legal process works will remain hidden – to the detriment of justice being done and being seen to be done.

Cameras won’t reveal the machinations of the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates as they practise the art of exoneration in favour of solicitors, advocates and QCs whose professional misconduct released a deluge of complaints from aggrieved clients.

Cameras won’t expose the behind-the-scenes tactics deployed by lawyers representing pursuers and defenders in civil actions as they scheme to facilitate settlements that suit the lawyers at the expense of their clients.

Cameras won’t reveal the pressure heaped on clients who resist such settlements, given the fact that they do not reflect the legal basis of the case.

Faced with such clients, solicitors seek the comfort of counsel. After perusing the details of the settlement offer, the eminent QC, with the aid of untenable reasoning, will strongly advise acceptance of the offer.

This tactic is frequently used if the client is in receipt of legal aid.

If the advice is rejected, the lawyers inform the legal aid board that the client is failing to accept the wisdom of a QC – ergo legal aid is usually withdrawn. Cameras won’t reveal how Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord President, controls the Judicial Office for Scotland in the context of judging the misconduct of the judiciary.

Conscious of the fact that the laity could perceive that arrangement as absurd and an affront to the very concept of justice, the Scottish Government created the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.

Moi Ali, the first reviewer, was armed with no resources, no effective power to review the decisions of the Lord President and a budget of £2,000 – a mere £498,000 less than the budget provided for the equivalent office in England.

Overwhelmed by her total lack of power, she is leaving her post. These are but a few examples of how Scotland’s legal process works.

If cameras zoomed in on them, the public’s understanding of how the process works would be greatly enhanced – thereby creating the possibility that, armed with that knowledge, the laity could partake in a process that would lead to the emergence of a legal system that was not under the control of lawyers, for the benefit of lawyers.

Thomas Crooks

Dundas Street

Edinburgh

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