Members of the public will continue to be prevented from watching remote civil court proceedings in Scotland until contempt of court safeguards are in place, it has emerged.
The Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) has opened a consultation on new court rules covering the most appropriate mode of attendance at civil court hearings in the Court of Session and sheriff courts.
The proposed rules are intended to provide a general presumption as to the types of hearings generally considered suitable for an in-person hearing; for attendance by electronic means, and procedures for the mode of attendance to be changed.
At present, registered journalists can apply to the court for dial-in numbers to hear telephone hearings and for joining instructions as attendees to see and hear video hearings. The public can apply to the court for a dial-in number to hear telephone hearings but they are restricted to only being able to hear video hearings.
The consultation paper states: ‘The temporary restriction on the public being able to view hearings conducted by electronic means is expected to remain in place until appropriate safeguards can be devised to deal with potential contempt of court issues; i.e. the unauthorised recording and storage of images and sound, and the potential for misuse of that material through unauthorised broadcasting during hearings. Once these operational challenges can be resolved satisfactorily through technology, that restriction is expected to be lifted.’
However, the SCJC adds: ‘The vision for truly open justice should be one in which the public and the media should be able to see and hear video hearings. In the longer term that should ideally be achieved without having to make an application.’