SASKATOON – Allowing a television camera inside a second-degree murder appeal proceeding Monday is an encouraging development, according to Saskatchewan’s former attorney general.
“It provides a real opportunity for people to see how a law gets made and the kinds of things judges have to think about in difficult and important cases,” said Brent Cotter, who served as attorney general from 1992 to 1997.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal allowed a television camera to capture Douglas Hales’ unsuccessful appeal in Regina of his 2014 second-degree murder conviction in the death of Daleen Bosse. The camera was allowed on the occasion and a pilot basis.
An appeal proceeding is a good arena for this first step to be taken, compared to a trial, according to Cotter.
“The matters that occur in appeal courts aren’t sensational, they tend to be thoughtful presentations of legal arguments,” said Cotter who is now a professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan.
“I applaud the court of appeal for taking this step.”
Saskatoon-based lawyer Michelle Ouellette also supports the move and said she wouldn’t be concerned if a camera was present during one of her proceedings.
“Our professional obligations, our ethics, our training is all going to prevail in that context,” said Ouellette, who is a partner at McKercher LLP.
“Our system is meant to be an open courtroom system, the courtroom is meant to be a public venue, with some exceptions,” she added.
However, some have voiced concerns. Dean Sinclair, the prosecutor in Hales’ appeal, opposed allowing the camera on the basis that it could have a negative impact on judicial proceedings.
“There may be concerns that someone will hold back or on the opposite side do the grandstanding, but on balance I think that’s likely to just level out and be a non issue,” said Ouellette.
The visuals that came out of Monday’s proceeding are by no means the first of their kind in Canada. The Supreme Court, for example, broadcasts cases live and has a web archive. Cotter said he believes there’s a chance Saskatchewan courts may offer the same opportunity in the future.
“That’s a good thing for transparency and people’s confidence in law,” said Cotter.
“The chance to kind of see it being developed, the kind of questions that the judges have to think about, that’s good for people to know.”