Tom Richmond: Oscar for drama but let’s keep cameras out of court

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A CONFESSION. I have become obsessed with the Oscar Pistorius murder trial which has turned into the best crime drama on television. The Paralympian’s five-day cross-examination by South Africa’s top prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, over the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp has made for gripping viewing.

Yet it has also led me to change my opinion on whether or not judicial proceedings in this country should be televised. Prior to the Blade Runner’s appearance in the dock, I was in favour of the TV cameras being allowed into the courts so people could see justice in action.

Now I’m beginning to have my doubts. The reason Sky News and BBC News 24 have devoted so much coverage to the Pistorius trial is because of its celebrity nature and the question of whether a global sporting icon, one of the heroes of the 2012 London Paralympics, shot dead his glamorous girlfriend after a Valentine’s Day row.

It’s why there were occasions when Nel played to the TV cameras with his abrasive style of questioning. He repeated and repeated the same point for effect. And Pistorius, himself, was not immune from this – his wailing left this viewer wondering whether these were crocodile tears or a genuine show of emotion.

Yet, if trial by television is to work, the proceedings need to be shown in their entirety and it was noticeable that Sky News and BBC News 24 chose not to broadcast these proceedings in full once the Pistorius cross-examination had ended. They had little time for the technical evidence from expert witnesses which followed.

And the analysis at the end of each day’s proceedings – and speculation over the likelihood of guilty verdicts being returned against the amputee – would not be possible in Britain. Such commentary would be in contempt of court because of the strict rules that rightly govern the reporting of judicial proceedings in this country and prevent the reporting of comment until a case has concluded.

I can only see Britain’s broadcasters being interested in showing the more salacious aspects of trials involving celebrities while continuing to ignore the run-of-the-mill cases that are a truer reflection of the criminal justice system in action. Is this fair? I, for one, no longer think so.

I LIKED Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme’s response to a journalist who queried why Yorkshire, and not Florence, was hosting this summer’s Grand Départ.

“If Gary Verity was the Mayor of Florence the Grand Départ would be starting in Florence,” said Prudhomme last weekend. This is important. To me, it is a reflection of the extent to which the French admire the chutzpah of the Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive.

It’s just a shame that his ambition is 
not shared by those unimpressive Ministers and underwhelming council chiefs who would never have had the audacity to take on Florence – and Edinburgh for that matter – and bring cycling’s most iconic race to God’s own county.

For, like it or not, this is the type of go-ahead spirit that needs to be nurtured if Yorkshire is to fulfil its potential as one of the world’s great sporting and leisure destinations.

TALKING of individuals with pizzazz, Ukip leader Nigel Farage defended criticism about his expenses from the European Union by saying he used the money in question to campaign for Britain’s exit from the EU.

That may be so, but money intended to support MEPs – or MPs for that matter – with their duties as elected representatives should not be used to bankroll party political crusades like the one being pursued by Ukip.

They should be funded by donors.

And Farage was being disingenuous when he defended his own £3,580-a-month allowance by saying: “We do not have to provide any receipts or 
any explanation for how that money is spent.”

If Farage believes in total transparency, as he says he does with regularity, he will provide the necessary receipts and documentation – even though the EU does not demand this.

CONTINUING the subject of expenses, I sense that voters are not going to forgive – or forget – the mishandling of Maria Miller scandal in a hurry.

Let’s face it, the now ex-Culture Secretary only has herself to blame. If she had resigned with honour at the outset, and insisted that she repaid, in full, the amount recommended by Parliamentary investigators before the issue was fudged by MPs, there would already be a clamour for her to return to the Cabinet.

COMPARE and contrast the dignity of Everton manager Roberto Martinez at the memorial service to mark the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy with the self-congratulation of Labour’s Andy Burnham.

After being booed at the service in 2009 to commemorate the 20th anniversary, Burnham – the then Culture Secretary – did pave the way for the inquiry that led to the reopening of the inquests into the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. I acknowledge that.

But, given that this injustice took place in 1989, why did it take 10 years for the last Labour government to listen to the relatives of the bereaved? It is a question that Burnham, for one, still needs to answer.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk

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