Promoting the rule of law and the administration of justice
“In the final analysis, the open court principle is not an end in itself, but a means to promote the rule of law and the administration of justice.”
The open court principle furthers a variety of important values.
“The open court principle furthers a variety of important values which can be grouped under three heads.
“First, it assists in the search for truth, and is essential to the effective exercise of the right to free expression and freedom of the press. By permitting access to and dissemination of accurate information, it plays an important role in educating the public [about their rights, obligations and the role of the courts].
“Second, openness enhances judicial accountability ["A judge’s knowledge that his or her conduct on the bench is under observation and may be broadly reported offers a strong incentive to avoid any perception of bias and to ensure that trial fairness is respected. Similarly, the awareness of police officers and public prosecutors that their acts will be scrutinised in open court helps ensure fair conduct and may elicit public pressure to correct oppressive state practices"].
“Finally, since openness permits the community to see that justice is done, it has a therapeutic function.
“A single unifying purpose animates all these benefits of the open court principle – the preservation of public confidence in the administration of justice. By promoting and preserving public confidence in the judicial system, the open court principle serves to maintain the authority of the courts and the rule of law in a civil society.”
Limits to open justice
“It ….... seems evident that in contemporary society, the open court principle, however vital, imposes important costs in terms of diminished privacy, trial fairness and maintaining the security, independence and repute of judges and the judicial system. As a result, the law has come to recognise that we must sometimes limit the open court principle.”