‘Parliament ought to reflect on whether order needs to be imposed’
The Scottish Parliament will hold a debate on the role of the media in criminal trials during the next term running up to Christmas.
While the Leveson Inquiry has taken some evidence from Scottish journalists and members of the public on press conduct, its primary focus has been on phone hacking and the relationship between the press and government and politicians at Westminster level.
The Holyrood justice committee is concerned that a number of issues pertinent to Scotland have remain unresolved and unexplored.
The minutes of its meeting on 19 June show that it requested the conveners’ liaison group to make time for a debate in the chamber. The request has been agreed and passed on to the parliamentary business committee to allocate a slot, probably in December.
Convener of the justice committee, Christine Grahame, said: “New media, social media and evolving newsdesk priorities, including release of information by official news sources, are presenting us with new challenges to the traditional understanding of the balance between the presumption of innocence and the public’s entitlement to know what’s going on in criminal proceedings.
“It has all been a bit haphazard and the parliament ought to reflect on whether some order needs to be imposed on the current sprawl.”
A report prepared by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) highlighted a number of concerns, including the common practice of filming accused and witnesses arriving at and leaving court over the course of a trial.
There are restrictions on filming children and other vulnerable witnesses, and a voluntary restraint on filming complainers (but not the accused) in sexual offence trials, but there may be a broader issue at a time when intimidation of witnesses is a live issue.
There is an observational documentary in the pipeline on the retrial and conviction of Nat Fraser for the murder of his wife, although he intends to lodge an appeal against the June verdict.
The production company, Windfall Films, spent several years negotiating the installation of cameras in the court and its agreement on filming and editing protocols has been the subject of precise and detailed rules.
Channel 4 says there is still no screening date.
However, there do not appear to be clear criteria for the Crown Office on its release of evidential material and footage, or its occasional post-conviction comments or for its new Twitter feed.
SPICe notes the mystery of the release of footage of police interviews with Tommy and Gail Sheridan remains unresolved.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South