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Newfoundland and Labrador's Court of Appeal ready for its closeup

Court of Appeal Chief Justice Derek Green.
Court of Appeal Chief Justice Derek Green.

Members of the public usually only hear second hand about local court cases, by reading about them or talking to others.

Now, people will soon get to see first hand what goes on during legal proceedings in the province’s highest court.

Starting Friday, Oct. 13, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in St. John’s will broadcast live on its website a hearing of an appeal.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the appeal of convicted armed robber Evan James Fry will be shown to those who log on to the court’s website and click the broadcast link.

“I think what we’re trying to do is have the court catch up with technology,” Court of Appeal Chief Justice Derek Green told The Telegram.

“A court is a public institution and the public is entitled to see what we do. But the reality is very few people can actually get in to a hearing and even if they do, there’s limited space (in the courtroom).

“This is an opportunity for people to see what the court does. Court is a public and open institution and should be seen by members of the public so people can understand exactly what we’re doing and gain some understanding of the role of the court in public life in the province.”

It’s a pilot project, but Green said if there’s interest shown in the first webcast, they intent to engage in more for other hearings in the future.

That would mean the court would purchase its own equipment, instead of using borrowed equipment, Green said.

In the case scheduled to be broadcast next month, Fry is appealing his conviction and six-year sentence for break, entry and theft at a senior’s home in Bay Roberts. The issues on appeal include whether a statement made by a co-accused to police should have been admitted into evidence at Fry’s trial in support of his conviction and whether the sentence was just.

When asked about the possibility of trial division courts having webcasts, Green said there’s a role for webcasts in those courts as well, but to a limited extent.

“There would be greater problems with respect in trial courts, where you have witnesses and jurors,” he said. “You have to take into account the impact public viewing of people who participate in the court system on the way it operates.

“The simple part of appeal court is we don’t have witnesses. It’s legal arguments, in which judges interact with lawyers. It’s a much easier process.”

Kathy Blake, registrar of the Court of Appeal, said some other provinces have begun using webcasting in their courts in recent years.

“The webcasting of this appeal will continue to expand the Court of Appeal’s access to justice initiatives in Newfoundland and Labrador, allowing the public a better understanding of legal processes and instilling public confidence in the court through greater transparency of the courtroom,” Blake stated in a new release.

Provincial Justice and Public Safety Minister Andrew Parsons agreed it’s a good idea.

“By using technology and sharing the court process via webcasting, we hope to make it easier for people to be engaged and learn more about the justice system in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Parsons said.

The live webcast will be available at the NL Court of Appeal website by clicking the link

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