Saskatchewan courts may be closer to having cameras during trials: experts
As media cameras prepare to enter the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal for a fourth time, some experts believe the province could be moving closer to having cameras in lower courts.
Saskatchewan’s constitutional challenge of the federal carbon tax will be live streamed online when two days of arguments begin Wednesday.
Criminal defence lawyer Brian Pfefferle, who is not affiliated with the case, supports the principle of having cameras in court.
The Saskatoon-based lawyer noted the Supreme Court of Canada has streaming video accessible online and the lower courts could be next.
“Certainly, one would suggest it’s maybe moving in that direction, but there are a lot of considerations to make, particularly for trial levels,” Pfefferle said.
Potential negative effects could be witnesses acting or testifying differently if they know they are on camera.
Witnesses are also typically barred from the courtroom before they testify.
“If they are able to live stream the testimony of an individual that could potentially influence their [own] testimony,” Pfefferle said.
However, he noted media often live-tweet court hearings, people with mobility issues should be available to view court proceedings and others can’t travel.
“The camera doesn’t have an agenda … it just portrays the version of events,” he said.
Saskatchewan first allowed cameras in the Court of Appeal for the unsuccessful November 2015 appeal of Douglas Hale’s murder conviction in the death of Daleen Bosse.
Most recently, cameras recorded lawyers arguing David Woods’ October 2018 appeal arising from the death of his wife Dorothy.
Media cameras have never been granted access to Saskatchewan provincial courthouses or the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan commended the court Tuesday for permitting cameras to allow the public to understand the process and arguments.
Morgan said there have been informal discussions with judges about further camera access.
“Right now, we regard that as in the purview of the courts to make those decisions. We haven’t considered any legislation that would take it any further,” Morgan said.
In January 2018, Global News, CBC, CTV, Postmedia and APTN applied to have cameras in the Court of Queen’s Bench for the Gerald Stanley second-degree murder trial.
Chief Justice Martel Popescul dismissed the application, stating “this is not the right case to put in a petri dish for experimental purposes.”
Some feel the next step is to have cameras present when a jury and witnesses are not. In November 2018, Manitoba provincial court Judge Tracey Lord delivered her sentence on camera for a convicted letter bomber.
Adjunct professor Leonzo Barreno at the University of Regina’s school of journalism said such a step could be next for Saskatchewan.
“Keep applying. Keep doing this because this is actually a good service that the media is doing for all Canadians,” Barreno said.
Live streaming of the carbon tax court challenge begins at 9:30 a.m. CT on Wednesday.
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