Manitoba judge open to cameras in court



WINNIPEG - Has the time finally come for cameras in the courtrooms?

That question is getting renewed attention following comments this week by recently appointed Queen's Bench Chief Justice Glenn Joyal.

In an interview with CJOB radio, Joyal said he is open to the idea of allowing cameras in court on a limited basis for such things as high-profile sentencing decisions. The decision, he said, would be at the discretion of the sentencing judge.

Joyal was unavailable for further comment Wednesday.

"I've never understood why we would have a blanket prohibition," said Winnipeg defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg. "If you want an open process why not allow (the public) an eye into the courtroom?"

Roitenberg knows what it's like to be under the camera eye. He was co-counsel for the 2009 Brian Mulroney-Karlheinz Schreiber Inquiry, televised daily on CPAC and other stations for months.

"By the end of the day you forgot the cameras were there," Roitenberg said. "Once people adapt to a particular scenario it's like it was always there."

Cameras in court would offer viewers a version of proceedings truer than the subjective accounts of reporters, Roitenberg argued.

"At least if cameras come in the courtroom you will get an actual portrayal of what occurred rather than an editorialized version," he said.

Whether people will actually watch is another matter.

"I don't honestly believe there is a viewership for it in Canada," Roitenberg said. "It doesn't make for stunning TV. Have you ever watched Court TV? It's not that riveting."

Last year provincial court Judge Tim Preston dismissed a motion filed by several media outlets requesting they be allowed to broadcast the upcoming Brian Sinclair inquest.

Preston said prohibiting cameras from the courtroom would not impede public access to the inquest or interfere with freedom of the media.

Sinclair died in September 2008 after waiting 34 hours in the emergency room at Health Sciences Centre without receiving care.




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Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre

The judiciary, especially the most respected, the most objective and impartial, generally, support open courts with audio and video recordings.

What the problem is , that most of the time, courts refuse to allow any public record and those judges who engage in the most flagrant of abuses of power are the judges who hide their decisions by not publishing them, and in the rare event that the do publish, they write works of fiction to justify their decision to prevent any appeal and to appeal to the appeal court judges to continue their cartel like approach to justice.