British Columbia

Cameras coming to B.C. courtrooms

Cameras could soon be broadcasting trials from B.C. courtrooms, if the province's attorney general gets his way.

Cameras could soon be broadcasting trials from B.C. courtrooms, if the province's attorney general gets his way.

Mike de Jong believes putting cameras in B.C.'s provincial courts would make the legal system more open and accountable to the public.

Currently the only court with permanent cameras inside the courtroom is the Supreme Court of Canada, but several lower courts across Canada have allowed media outlets to record and broadcast some rare proceedings in recent decades.

De Jong, who is a lawyer himself, wants to see a pilot project in place within a year and has already begun talking with lawyers and judges about the idea, but he has not released any details about how the project might work.

He compared it to the television broadcast of the provincial legislature, saying, "the legislature belongs to the people and the courts belong to the people."

As an cabinet minister, de Jong said he's not always thrilled everything he says in the legislature goes straight to air, but he still believes the public deserves to see it.

"There are days at the legislature where I'm actually not thrilled, after I've misspoke myself or said something that didn't quite come out right," he said.

System is archaic

UBC sociology professor Christopher Schneider says broadcasting trials would help bring the archaic court system into the 21st century and help the public better understand how the legal system works.

"You can put the trial on something like … YouTube, and you could broadcast the whole entire thing, unedited, no sound bites," said Schneider.

"I don't know a whole lot of people who would watch the whole thing, but the fact that you could watch it in your living room and not have to actually travel to go to the public trial, that's amazing," he said.  

If the province goes ahead with the idea, other provinces and countries would be quick to follow suit, Schneider predicts.