Open courts mean that we can see first hand how our rights as citizens are protected. They also remind us that justice comes first before any individual special interests.
As a citizen, you have the right to visit courts and observe them in action. With very few exceptions, all courts are open to the public. You are welcome to sit in a reserved space called the public gallery and watch what happens. You can pass a very interesting day this way and learn a lot about how our society operates.
You can even represent yourself in court. Most people, though, prefer to be represented by a lawyer, especially if the matter is serious. It is probably a better idea to do your learning from the gallery than in front of a judge.
In certain cases, a court may be closed. This happens most often to protect the rights of children. For instance, if a young child is giving evidence in a sexual assault case, the judge can restrict access to the courtroom for that part of the trial.
Sometimes, the trial judge orders a ban on publication. This means that members of the news media are not allowed to report on some aspects of the trial. For example, the identity of an undercover police officer might need to be protected, so newspapers or radio stations wouldn’t be able to report the name of the officer.
Even with a publication ban, the public is still entitled to watch the case in the courtroom. This is an entirely open process.
Cameras are only allowed in the courtroom for ceremonies that are held to welcome new judges, honour retiring judges, and in memory of judges or retired judges who have died. Cameras are welcome at these ceremonies, but filming or taking videos of regular court proceedings is prohibited.