New Zealand Law Society - Law on the Telly: The Court Report

Law on the Telly: The Court Report

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By Craig Stephen

The Court Report was fronted by barrister Greg King with 80 programmes being made between 2010 and 2012, discussing and dissecting the crucial legal issues of the day.

The format was a panel discussion, hosted by King (and later by Linda Clark) with leading experts, players and commentators. The aim was to ‘go behind the headlines’ of the legal news stories of the day. It was in in its way, unique, where legal programmes tend to be fictional, and some would say detached from reality.

However, its ability to develop a large following was limited by being shown on the now defunct TVNZ7 channel. After being filmed at Victoria University of Wellington law school, the programme aired on Thursday nights (at 9:30pm), and was repeated three times over the next few days.

“This is real life”

King, who was also the show’s executive producer, made it clear in the show’s trailer what would make The Court Report distinctive.

“The criminals don’t always get caught; the evidence isn’t always conclusive; the sentence doesn’t always seem fair; and psychics don’t always find out what really happened. Because this is real life and not a TV drama. Law affects us all, but it can be hard to work out what’s real and what’s make believe.

Greg King
Greg King

“We’ll go inside the minds of the lawmakers with experts who navigate the world of legislation, we how our court system works.”

Among the episodes, one featured the retired Supreme Court Justice Bill Wilson QC, who was interviewed for the first time on the circumstances leading to his resignation.

Another episode looked at science and the law.

“As far as crime fighting tools go, DNA is like a gift from heaven for investigators but are we too easily blinded by science and the dazzle of a white lab coat?” the promo for this particular episode promised.

“While science can sometimes prove who did it, or who didn’t do it as we discovered in the David Dougherty case, it’s not always the smoking gun we want it to be. Real life is a far cry from CSI.”

That programme also looked at the Bain killings and the murders of Eugene and Gene Thomas.

The one-hour special

The 50th episode was a one-hour special filmed in Christchurch in July 2011. The episode looked into the myriad of legal problems and issues arising out of the earthquakes.

Linda Clark
Linda Clark

Other guests included the then Minister of Justice, Attorney-General and many other MPs, present and past, including Sir Geoffrey Palmer. A number of judges also featured as well as legal professionals such as QCs. It also featured Garth McVicar of the Sensible Sentencing Trust and Gill Elliott, father of Sophie Elliott.

“Public debate is usually driven by emotion and uninformed comment, and is centred on blaming people rather than understanding the underlying principles of law,” said King at the start of the series. “Often people simply don’t know what the law says, and why, and that has a huge effect on the level of the debate.”

After 68 episodes, King quit as presenter to take up an Eisenhower Fellowship. After his departure the show was hosted by journalist and new lawyer Linda Clark. Fittingly, the final episode of the show featured King as the last guest, discussing his experiences on his Eisenhower Fellowship. TVNZ7’s decline in July 2012 also saw the end of The Court Report, after more than 80 episodes.

Greg King died on 2 November 2012.

Unfortunately, there are no episodes of the show available to see on TVNZ’s online on-demand service and none appear on YouTube.

This was undoubtedly a show that served a great deal of purpose but given how constrained television is today, it is unlikely it could be repeated.

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