In this era of free market fundamentalism, it seems there is nothing that cannot be commodified – even justice.
The master of the rolls’ backing for televising all court proceedings is surprising. Lord Dyson argues that is ‘absurd’ to worry about prurience.
Really? One must assume he accepts the claims of broadcasters who say they want to televise criminal trials because this is ‘in the public interest’ and ‘about democracy’. Yet the suspicion remains that what they really want is to create a new ‘reality TV’ format.
Nearly two years ago, the then justice secretary Kenneth Clarke announced that plans to televise criminal trials would not extend to filming juries, victims and witnesses ‘under any circumstances’ – nor to the filming of court officials or lawyers. ‘The other people involved [apart from the judge] need to be protected,’ Clarke told MPs, ‘because otherwise the whole nature of the proceedings will be changed, some people will be intimidated and some people’s behaviour will be affected.’ Just so.
Having secured live coverage of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the broadcast lobby can now look forward to filming sentencing remarks in the Crown court, the government said. Victims, witnesses and offenders will continue to be protected – but for how long?
This is a shrewd deployment of ‘salami tactics’ on the part of the broadcasters. How long will it be before criminal justice is packaged up and flogged as part of a satellite TV subscription?