ADJ head calls for cameras in courtroom

Elizabeth Davidson reports

THE new president of the Association of District Judges (ADJ), Michael Hawthorne, has recommended the use of video cameras in court.

According to Hawthorne "a small unobtrusive camera at the back of the court" is the "next logical extension" for the recording of proceedings in court, most of which are currently tape recorded.

Hawthorne said the increasing use of closed circuit television in everyday life meant witnesses and defendants were unlikely to notice a camera, although they would have to be told of its presence.

No plans have yet been laid for the videotaping of court proceedings.

Hawthorne claims it is likely to happen and would keep the "best possible record" of court proceedings as gestures, expressions and movements would also be captured.

Hawthorne, speaking at the 350-strong ADJ annual general meeting on 27 March, when he took over as president, also predicted that within the next five years court users would be able to electronically file their court pleadings and documentation, and that court proceedings heard via telephone and video links would become increasingly commonplace.

County court judges have been electronically linked since December, when the Court Services' case-management programme was introduced.

Hawthorne was appointed to the judiciary in 1976, formerly sat at Staines, Kingston-on-Thames and Uxbridge County Courts, and now sits at Thanet and Canterbury County Courts. He is a nominated care district judge for Canterbury.