Publicity of Judicial Proceedings

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Publicity of Judicial Proceedings


the democratic principle of court proceedings, according to which trials of criminal and civil cases are, as a rule, conducted in sessions open to all citizens. The press, radio, television, and other mass media have the right to give publicity to both the trials and their outcomes.

In the USSR the principle of publicity of judicial proceedings is guaranteed by the Constitution of the USSR (art. 111), the Basic Principles of Criminal Procedure of the USSR and the Union Republics of 1958 (art. 12), and the Basic Principles of Civil Procedure of the USSR and the Union Republics of 1961 (art. 11). Trials are to be conducted in camera only to protect state secrets or to prevent disclosure of the facts of the private life of the parties concerned—for example, in cases of sexual crimes. The sentences and decisions of the court are pronounced publicly in all cases. For educational reasons, persons under 16 years of age who are not appearing as defendants, injured parties, or witnesses are not admitted to the courtroom (Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR, art. 212). The examination of cases on appeal and under judicial supervision by higher courts is also public.

There is also publicity during the phase of preliminary investigation, but it is more limited than during a trial, in order not to obstruct exposure of the crime. The facts of the preliminary investigation may be published with the approval of the investigator or the procurator, insofar as they consider possible.

In socialist countries publicity of judicial proceedings contributes to the realization of the educational tasks of the judicial system. It is one of the guarantees of popular control of the activities of the court, the procurators, and the agencies of preliminary investigation, and it helps to disseminate knowledge of the law and strengthen legality. Publicity of judicial proceedings develops a belief in the inevitability of punishment and heightens the sense of responsibility of the judges, the procurators, and the investigators. In the USSR the courts hear cases in circuit sessions in order to give wider publicity to cases of great social and political significance.

The principle of publicity of judicial proceedings is also formally proclaimed in most of the developed bourgeois countries. However, many instructions and court practices in fact restrain its implementation. Thus, in Great Britain a court session may be conducted in camera if the judge believes that a public hearing of the case would not serve the aims of justice or that it might involve revealing commercial secrets. (In view of this vague formulation, the court in practice may always order the proceedings to be held in camera.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.