Top QC Donald Findlay warns of the risks of filming criminal trials
• Donald Findlay QC explains his opposition to cameras in certain trials
• Aamer Anwar calls for crackdown on jurors going online to read about defendants
Mr Findlay warned it would put witnesses off giving evidence and even place lives at risks.
Holyrood’s justice committee is today taking evidence on the role of the media in the justice system.
A recent pilot saw TV cameras film the sentencing of David Gilroy for the murder of Edinburgh woman Suzanne Pilley.
Mr Findlay said he didn’t have a problem with this, but drew the line at filming trials where the public would be taking part as witnesses or accused.
“You put pressure on witnesses - it’s difficult enough to get people to come forward,” he added.
“You put pressure on the citizen, the accused. If you are acquitted why should you have your image blasted into every home by the television.”
“People who are convicted or acquitted of serious criminal charges could have their lives at risk because there are people out there who would like to seek vengeance.”
The committee also heard human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar call for a crackdown on jurors who go online to find out if the defendant has any previous convictions. This is normally withheld from jurors to avoid the risk it may “prejudice” them against the accused person.
“We’ve reached stage now where judges’ directions have to be in a language that are clear and unequivocal and for jurors to realise that if they do take the step of going home and researching and downloading material and this was to arise, then they could be sent to prison for it.
“It’s not a question of policing the internet but it is a question of making sure the jury system remains what it is, the jewel in the crown of the Scottish legal system.”