Lights, camera … trial

Premier Christy Clark wants to televise the court cases of those charged in the Stanley Cup riots (if charges are ever laid).

Lights, camera ... trial

Premier Christy Clark wants to televise the court cases of those charged in the Stanley Cup riots (if charges are ever laid).

It would be a good idea if this didn’t stink so much of populist pandering on the part of the premier. Clark, much to our dismay, is getting more and more like Bill Vander Zalm all the time. He would often set policy during media scrums, which led to great goofiness in government and untold hardship on the civil service, who had to scramble to write policy to suit what popped into the premier’s head an hour before.

The argument here is simple, either cameras should be allowed in courtrooms or they shouldn’t. Period. For the premier to pick and choose which trials to televise, based on what she feels will feed the public’s appetite for vengeance and/or voyeurism, puts her in the same league as Nancy Grace … a zealot who harms the delivery of justice while professing to defend it.

It’s funny that Clark didn’t scream up and down that the Basi-Virk trial on the sale of BC Rail should be televised. If ever there was a trial in B.C. that should have been, that’s it.

Clark’s suggestion, though, does open the door for debate on whether cameras should be allowed in the courtroom.

Albeit small, I played a part in this debate several years ago.

We were covering an animal abuse trial in the Chilcotin. During the course of the trial it was suggested that a visit to the property where the animals had been kept would be beneficial to the trial. It would actually form part of the trial. In other words, this wasn’t just a few people taking a look at the property. The trial would adjourn and reconvene at the ranch. As the trial was public, the public could attend … just as any member of the public can sit in on a trial in a courthouse (unless the judge orders the courtroom closed, which is rare). That meant the media could tag along.

My question was: Can the newspaper then photograph the proceedings?

I checked with our lawyer who investigated and determined that the legislation banning cameras, when read literally, suggests it only applies to the physical structure of the actual courthouse. Since we would not be in the courthouse, a camera should be allowed.

Then came the tough part, at least for me. Our lawyer said the only way to find out is to put it to the judge directly and the only way to do that was, when the judge actually ruled that the court would visit the ranch, I was to jump up, interrupt the proceedings and ask the question.

Let me tell you, there was plenty of knee-knocking and sweaty palms that day as I sat in court waiting for the time to jump. I had visions of the judge tossing me in the hoosegow for interrupting his domain.

Nothing like that happened. Actually, the judge adjourned court and took a couple of days to rule on my request.

He agreed the literal interpretation indicated cameras were allowed, but also acknowledged that there was no precedent and that, since the visit would be on private property, there were privacy concerns. In the end he ruled that we could shoot one roll of film (it was back before digital days), the court would develop the film and black out anything it determined was prejudicial (the face of the accused). Plus the court would keep the film, which then became part of the court record.

It we are to allow cameras in courtrooms, it should be because it’s warranted and serves a greater good, not because the premier wants to make an example of someone.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The wind has been gusting Friday, March 5 in Williams Lake with the risk of a thunderstorm in the forecast for later in the afternoon. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
More than 500 customers in Cariboo without power, risk of thunderstorm Friday afternoon

The BC Hydro map is adding more power outages as the afternoon unfolds

The two suspects arrested south of 150 Mile House Tuesday, March 2, following a high-speed chase with the RCMP have been charged. (Will Roberts photo)
High-speed chase suspects charged, remain in custody after arrest south of Williams Lake

John Craig and Maggie M. Higgott appeared in Williams Lake Provincial Court March 4

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Many members of the Williams Lake Cross Country Ski Club (pictured) have teamed up with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society to host a free ski in celebration of World Water Day. (Patrick Davies photo - Black Press Media)
Conservation society, cross country ski club, celebrate World Water Day with free ski March 6

The free ski will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 6 at Bull Mountain

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read