Saskatoon

Sask. courts create committee to study pros-cons of televising trials

A committee representing provincial court and Court of Queen's Bench is canvassing the public on the pros and cons of cameras in court.

Joint committee is for provincial court and Queen's Bench

David Woods' case appeal of his first-degree murder conviction in the death of his wife, Dorothy, was streamed live for viewers who were interested in the case. (CBC)

Saskatchewan courts want the public's opinion on broadcasting proceedings on television or the internet.

Two trial courts, the Court of Queen's Bench and Provincial Court, have created a joint committee to examine practices respecting the courts and media.

"Consideration of how the various interests are most appropriately balanced is also ongoing. Our open court system, supported by the Charter, enshrines the right to freedom of expression including freedom of the press and other media communication," said Courts communications officer Dawn Blaus in a letter seeking input from stakeholders.

"Yet there are many situations that require those who are vulnerable to receive protection, including from publicity, and at times this requires maintaining complete privacy or anonymity."

Media lawyer Sean Sinclair notes some people are 'leery' when cameras are around, such as when witnesses and privacy concerns are involved. (RSLaw)

Saskatoon media lawyer Sean Sinclair says local outlets recognize there are sensitivities that must be protected, but he says there are also larger principles at play.

"People are naturally leery, particularly where it relates to witnesses and privacy concerns," he said. 

"There's generally a benefit of the public getting to know what happens in our courtrooms. There's greater transparency, there's greater education."

People interested in submitting their thoughts can email dblaus@sasklawcourts.ca

There is precedent for televising court proceedings.

In October, 2018 the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal granted media permission to live stream from the courtroom when David Woods' appeared to appeal his first-degree murder conviction.

He was convicted in 2014 of killing his wife, Dorothy, whose body was found two months after she went missing.

The consortium, which was led by CBC Saskatchewan, included Global News, CTV News, Postmedia, Rawlco Radio, Saskatoon Media Group, Harvard Broadcasting and The Canadian Press.

It was not the only time cameras have been allowed in the courtroom.

In November 2015, a media pool was allowed to capture Douglas Hales' unsuccessful appeal of his 2014 second-degree murder conviction in the death of Daleen Bosse.

In April 2016, Blaine Taypotat lost his appeal of a 9½-year sentence after pleading guilty to manslaughter and impaired driving causing death of a conservation officer.

This year, the court has allowed cameras to be present for the appeal by the man convicted in a school shooting in La Loche, for the appeal of a ruling stating that non-Catholic students should not get government funding to attend Catholic school and for Saskatchewan's legal challenge of the federal carbon tax.

A media consortium that included CBC had applications denied to broadcast portions of the Gerald Stanley trial and the Jaskirat Sidhu sentencing hearing and decision.

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