Horrific Video Tapes As Evidence:

Balancing Open Court and Victims' Privacy 

Sexual 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.