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Does taking trials to TV make court process more robust?

James Grant says live broadcasting trials enhances the intimidation factor courts are supposed to maintain.

A cellphone image showing paralympian Oscar Pistorius leaving the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday, 11 September 2014. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - Associate Professor of law at Wits University James Grant says the live broadcast of trials enhances the intimidation factor that courts are supposed to maintain in order to establish the truth.

In a precedent-setting ruling earlier this year, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria permitted the audio broadcast of the full Oscar Pistorius murder trial as well as video of certain portions.

The ruling followed an application by several media houses, including MultiChoice and Eyewitness News .

"The court setup is supposed to be intimidating. The fact that you're placed under oath and threatened that if you tell a lie you're going to be charged and convicted with perjury, that whole system is supposed to be intimidating."

He said the idea is, by intimidating people and putting them in a very formal situation where the 'world' is watching, they will be forced to tell the truth.

Grant described live tweeting and broadcast as a natural next step in the trial process.

"If we were ever thinking of reversing it, we'd have to reverse it all the way back, past live tweeting it from court and I just don't see that happening."

In discussing the potential influence the media could have on potential witnesses, Grant said the cross-examination process makes allowances in order to afford an opportunity to establish whether a witness's testimony has or hasn't been constructed.

Pistorius was on Friday found guilty in the North Gauteng High Court of culpable homicide for the 2013 killing of Reeva Steenkamp.

The double-amputee has always maintained he fired through the door into the toilet cubicle in the mistaken belief he was defending himself from a burglar.

Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled that the 'Blade Runner could not be found guilty of murder.

Pistorius will return to court for sentencing on 13 October.

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