David Bain’s retrial begins in Christchurch today. Yesterday the Judge held that certain web-based newspapers may screen delayed video coverage of the trial, but he declined TV3’s application to live-stream it. The present guidelines for court coverage, which date from 2003, are simply silent on the internet medium, and the Judge said that since the issue hadn’t yet been considered by the courts it was inappropriate to extend the guidelines to live-streaming in this case.
It’s not hard to see why a Judge might shy away from testing out this novel form of media coverage (and one that would change the way the trial is digested by the New Zealand public) in Bain’s case, which is so notorious. Live-streaming the trial would make it a seriously public event and that might influence the way trial counsel and jurors behaved. Justice should be seen to be done, but nobody wants a trial that degenerates into a reality TV show.
So, would live-streaming just indulge the voyeurs amongst us? Or is it a corollary of truly open justice? How open should open justice be?