Legal history

Anyone who expected to see a flustered Alistair Carmichael in the fireline of cross-examination or QCs in billowing robes making flaming speeches against or in favour of the accused will have been disappointed by the TV broadcast of the election court hearing in Edinburgh.

It was a rational, detailed, legal discussion on how a specific piece of legislation applies to a certain case, in this instance the petition by Shetland and Orkney constituents to declare Alistair Carmichael’s election void.

No decision was made; the judges will issue their report in due course.

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People in Shetland and Orkney will have watched the proceedings with keen interest. Others may have had difficulty following the arguments.

And while no doubt it was only fair and reasonable to ensure that the people of Shetland and Orkney were able to follow the hearing, it is debatable whether or not is was necessary to broadcast the rather technical submissions of the QCs nationwide, live and in full.

STV hailed it as a groundbreaking milestone in TV history. Yet, according to Scottish Legal News, general guidelines for such broadcasts are not even drafted yet. And these guidelines will apply to civil proceedings.

But in Alistair Carmichael’s case there is a clear political dimension. This begs the question: which ground exactly has been broken and to where will this lead?

Regina Erich

Willow Row