EDITORIAL: Riot TV not required

Judge was correct last week to block the B.C. government’s application to televise the trials of the people charged in the Stanley Cup riot.

Vancouver provincial court Judge Malcolm MacLean was correct last week to block the B.C. government’s application to televise the trials of the people charged in the Stanley Cup riot.

While Premier Christy Clark and the government lawyers argued the case was an attempt to improve transparency of the justice system, it was really more about humiliating the people accused of trashing downtown Vancouver so as to discourage others from doing the same in the future.

It was, after all, the second hockey riot in Vancouver in a generation, the previous occurring in 1994.

Some cynics have suggested the TV proposal was an attempt to exploit, for political purposes, the wave of outrage and revulsion inspired by the events of June 15, 2011 after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, an event marked by a riot that caused nearly $4 million in damages.

So far, about four dozen people have been charged with participating in the violence.

Broadcasting their testimony in court would give everyone a chance to see what exactly they look like. It would clearly identify them to their friends, neighbours and employers who might not wait for the court to decide if they were guilty.

Mob justice for a mob, you might say.

Much like medieval times, when the same goals of humiliation and deterrence were accomplished by locking someone in a pillory, and leaving them like that for several hours, at the mercy of a taunting, jeering public.

The practice fell out of fashion because mobs have been known to lose control and inflict harsher than intended punishment, a prospect that seems to have escaped the people who supported what has become known as “Riot TV.”

There is a case to be made for video coverage of Canadian court trials to improve transparency and give the public a better sense of the process.

This was not that case.

While Premier Christy Clark and the government lawyers argued the case was an attempt to improve transparency of the justice system, it was really more about humiliating the people accused of trashing downtown Vancouver so as to discourage others from doing the same in the future.

It was, after all, the second hockey riot in Vancouver in a generation, the previous occurring in 1994.

Some cynics have suggested the TV proposal was an attempt to exploit, for political purposes, the wave of outrage and revulsion inspired by the events of June 15, 2011 after the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, an event marked by a riot that caused nearly $4 million in damages.

So far, about four dozen people have been charged with participating in the violence.

Broadcasting their testimony in court would give everyone a chance to see what exactly they look like. It would clearly identify them to their friends, neighbours and employers who might not wait for the court to decide if they were guilty.

Mob justice for a mob, you might say.

Much like medieval times, when the same goals of humiliation and deterrence were accomplished by locking someone in a pillory, and leaving them like that for several hours, at the mercy of a taunting, jeering public.

The practice fell out of fashion because mobs have been known to lose control and inflict harsher than intended punishment, a prospect that seems to have escaped the people who supported what has become known as “Riot TV.”

There is a case to be made for video coverage of Canadian court trials to improve transparency and give the public a better sense of the process.

This was not that case.