The public and other interested parties attending court hearings will now be able to live-stream the proceedings after a ground-breaking judgment by the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) yesterday. Until now, only recognised media houses could apply for the broadcasting and live streaming of court proceedings, the Pretoria News reports.

But a two-year long battle by SA's so-called dagga couple, Myrtle Clarke and Jules Stobbs, has now made it possible for the public and interested parties who attend hearings, to do likewise.

As with the media, the parties who want to broadcast proceedings must still apply in this regard to the presiding judge. But a full Bench (three judges) in their judgment made it clear that a judge should not withhold permission for flimsy reasons. The judges held the view that the right of the public to access and to hear and view court proceedings through live streaming and broadcasting was in line with open justice.

The issue of live streaming came to the fore in 2017 when the couple, together with the organisation Fields of Green for All, applied to live stream the proceedings of their case to the website of Fields of Green for All. Doctors for Life and six arms of government vigorously opposed this, but the presiding judge at the time, Natvarlal Ranchod, did allow the live streaming.

Doctors for life and the government, as well as the NDPP, turned to the SCA to appeal the issue, but that court referred it back to a full Bench in Pretoria.

Judge Leicester Adams, who wrote the concurring judgment which turned down the appeal yesterday, said: 'It is crystal clear to us that the appellants are not able to demonstrate in what manner their fair trial rights in the civil trial would be prejudiced ... especially as they have no objection to the broadcasting of the proceedings by the traditional media.'

He referred the matter back to Ranchod so he could impose the conditions for the live streaming.

The full Bench also slapped government with the hefty legal bill, including the proceedings before the SCA, for their persistent and fruitless objection to the proceedings being live streamed.

Full Pretoria News report