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RADIA: Cameras in courtroom won't harm justice

Here we are in 2012 with a justice system that still doesn't allow cameras or recording devices in the courtroom.

Here we are in 2012 with a justice system that still doesn't allow cameras or recording devices in the courtroom. Instead, in most cases, our fundamental right to bear witness to justice is facilitated through archaic artist renderings and court transcripts.

What century do we live in?

Recently, Premier Christy Clark said her government would like to see cameras in the courtroom when Stanley Cup rioters came to trial.

"Those guys had no problem doing their crimes quite in public with all kinds of people taking pictures and doing videos all around them, so I think they should have no problem being tried in public either," Clark told reporters last fall.

To that, I say, bravo!

But we've got to take the next step - it's time we allow cameras in all court rooms.

Unlike almost every other public institution in Canada, the media is rarely allowed to bring the tools of their trade - cameras and microphones - into the courtroom for coverage of its proceedings.

The justice system's resistance to the information age is borne of fear of change, nostalgia and a self-interested desire for anonymity.

Thankfully, the public's right to attend court hearings has never questioned. Anyone can sit in the public gallery and watch a part or the whole of a trial. But only a limited number of people can get in.

Shouldn't those who can't take time off work or those who can't travel great distances still be able to view the proceedings on television or online?

My colleague opposite says cameras will create a circus-like atmosphere in our courts. Many opponents of cameras in courtrooms cite U.S. examples such as the spectacle that was the O.J. Simpson trial.

Those who watched the trial closely, however, know that the circus atmosphere had more to do with Judge Ito than the cameras.

Moreover, in the United States, where thousands of criminal trials have been televised, no case has ever been overturned on appeal due to the presence of cameras.

Clearly, cameras don't hurt the judicial process, as my colleague contends.

It's time the courts join the Senate, Parliament and legislatures across the country in allowing cameras.

Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.