[NZ] Jurors at risk from picture phones
Fri Dec 3, 2004 1:22am
Jurors at risk from picture phones
Dec 3, 2004
The safety of jurors and witnesses in New Zealand courts is under threat from mobile phones which also take photographs and video.
In a major drugs trial at the Auckland District Court last month involving a member of the Headhunters bikie gang, a man in the public gallery allegedly used a camera phone to photograph the jury.
The judge suppressed the incident so the trial could continue, but now One News can reveal authorities are scrambling to prevent it happening again.
The alarm was raised at the trial of Headhunters gang member David O'Carroll and three others.
After a massive police sting called Operation Illusion, they were convicted last month of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamines.
During their Auckland trial, the judge spotted a man using a mobile phone camera to photograph members of the jury.
The judge immediately put the jury under guard and issued a suppression order preventing the media from revealing the incident.
On Friday, lawyers for TVNZ and the New Zealand Herald succeeded in having the suppression lifted.
"It is wrong to say there is no concern. It is because there's a concern that the media wish to tell the public about it," says New Zealand Herald lawyer Bruce Gray.
Crown prosecutors are concerned that by telling the story One News may disturb future jurors in other gang-related trials.
They are also concerned that the picture phone incident could prejudice two more trials due to run in the high court and district court next year, both stemming from Operation Illusion.
New Zealand has no laws preventing recording equipment being used in court, but judges have powers to ensure proceedings are safe for jurors and witnesses.
In Sydney, court officers now confiscate phones as people enter the court, following a similar case in which a witness was photographed.
New Zealand's Ministry of Justice is reviewing its policies and may call for new laws dealing with video and photo phones.
Meanwhile, police are continuing their investigation into the person who photographed the jury.