Horrific Video Tapes As Evidence:
Balancing Open Court and Victims' Privacy
psychopaths often videotape their victims while they are being sexually abused
or tortured. That occurred in the
American case of Charles Ng, recently sentenced by a California court to the
death penalty in connection with a series of grisly sex-torture murders in that
State. An even more invasive
videotaping occurred in the case of Paul Bernardo, recently sentenced by a
Canadian court to a life in prison for the murder and rape of a number of young
girls in the area around Toronto, Canada. Numerous
other examples have recently emerged, and in many cases the videotape has formed
an important part of the case against the perpetrator in situations where
criminal charges were laid.
Although the tapes may be an important piece of evidence, they often
depict innocent victims – usually young girls – in the process of being
brutalized and degraded in a way that strips form the victim any notion of
dignity or privacy. And under
traditional rules of court, the tape must be entered in evidence in open court,
played to the jury, and be made fully available to the public and the media.
That takes us to the point of this essay.
Bruce MacFarlane, Q.C. examines the centuries – old tradition of an
open court process with the newly – emerging privacy rights of the victim of
crime. At the conclusion, the
author makes a series of recommendations that are designed to strike a sensible
balance between these two conflicting societal interests.