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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 May 2007, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Call for witnesses to be filmed
Sir Igor Judge
Sir Igor said it would be better to have the witness than the transcript
The head of criminal justice for the judiciary in England and Wales has called for witnesses to be filmed when they testify in court.

Sir Igor Judge said courts would be better placed to determine appeals if it could see what the jury had seen.

He also raised concern over government plans to prevent convicted criminals winning appeals because of legal problems during the trial process.

Ministers have not announced if the proposals will become law.

Sir Igor was speaking at a conference for the 10th anniversary of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates suspected miscarriages of justice.

There's absolutely no reason why rather than just having a transcript we shouldn't have a complete video
Sir Igor Judge

When deciding whether convictions are safe or not, the Court of Appeal is sometimes accused of paying too much respect to the jury's finding of guilt, BBC Home Affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said.

Although transcripts were already available, Sir Igor said they did not reveal the witnesses' physical expressions - whether they unexpectedly hesitated or struggled through difficult pieces of evidence.

He told BBC News: "What transcripts don't show is this. They don't show hesitation at times when hesitation is rather surprising.

"The transcripts don't show gabbling in order to get over a difficult bit of evidence and get past it.

"But if what we want to do is to have a more profound examination of the way in which a jury has returned a verdict, there's absolutely no reason why rather than just having a transcript we shouldn't have a complete video."

Tom Magner, from the Society of Expert Witnesses, said Sir Igor's idea should be taken further, with the whole court including barristers and judges filmed too.

Mr Magner said: "I can understand the thinking behind it and I can understand very much if you're in a courtroom in the live situation, a judge is looking at how the witness is behaving, looking at the whole picture."


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