BBC Four broadcast an excellent and really quite fascinating documentary yesterday evening on the United Kingdom Supreme Court. Justice in the United Kingdom is a public affair. Up and down the country, with few exceptions, the public can wonder into any court room while the court is sitting and watch proceedings. It has been a foundation of our judicial system for many years.
When the Supreme Court opened for business the Court has always been of the view that it wanted to be as open and as accessible as possible. It is fitted with permanent cameras that record proceedings and one would imagine these proceedings are capable of being shown on live television should the need ever arise. The presence of these cameras in court meant that during this documentary we were able to see scenes of the Supreme Court in action. In our other courts filming is generally banned. I can only think of a handful of examples of television cameras being allowed inside Court rooms in Scotland.
The documentary itself was a huge step forward in judicial openness. It was really quite fascinating to find out more about four of the Justices of the Supreme Court and hearing them talk candidly about the decision making process.
To hear the Justices describe their frustrations over some of the judgments they have been forced to arrive at given the framing of Statutes as passed by Parliament was really quite remarkable. It has always been something I have admired about our Judiciary. The way they arrive at judgments is quite remarkable. The level of detachment from personal feelings required is quite significant and they cannot always, as much as they would often like to, arrive at a conclusion that they personally feel is fair, but rather have to arrive at one which is as fair as it possibly can be given the statutory provisions they are being asked to interpret.
This programme is just one in a brilliant season on BBC Four just now looking at Justice. The programming continues next week with many programmes which look fascinating and probably intellectually challenging.
I am looking forward to the remainder of the season on BBC Four and would welcome more of this programming on the BBC, especially the main terrestrial BBC Channels.
The Open University has an interesting experiment called “What’s your verdict?” running. The experiment can be reached by following The Open University link on the BBC Four Justice website. I would highly recommend both websites. All the programmes shown to date as part of the Justice season can be watched on BBC iPlayer and I would recommend watching any you haven’t already seen.