1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Camera

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CAMERA (a Latin adaptation of Gr. καμάρα, an arched chamber), in law, a word applied at one time to the English judges’ chambers in Serjeants’ Inn, as distinct from their bench in Westminster Hall. It was afterwards applied to the judges’ private room behind the court, and, hence, in the phrase in camera, to cases heard in private, i.e. in chambers. So far as criminal cases are concerned, the courts have no power to hear them in private, nor have they any power to order adults (men or women) out of court during the hearing. In civil proceedings at common law, it may also be laid down that the public cannot be excluded from the court; in Malan v. Young, 1889, 6 T.L.R. 68, Mr Justice Denman held that he had power to hear the case in camera, but he afterwards stated that there was considerable doubt among the judges as to the power to hear cases in camera, even by consent, and the case was, by consent of the parties, finally proceeded with before the judge as arbitrator. In the court of chancery it is the practice to hear in private cases affecting wards of the court and lunatics, family disputes (by consent), and cases where a public trial would defeat the object of the action (Andrew v. Raeburn, 1874, L.R. 9 Ch. 522). In an action for infringement of a patent for a chemical process the defendant was allowed to state a secret process in camera (Badische Anilin und Soda Fabrik v. Gillman, 1883, 24 Ch. D. 156). The Court of Appeal has decided that it has power to sit in private; in Mellor v. Thompson, 1885, 31 Ch. D. 55, it was stated that a public hearing would defeat the object of the action, and render the respondent’s success in the appeal useless. In matrimonial causes, the divorce court, following the practice of the ecclesiastical courts under the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, s. 22, hears suits for nullity of marriage on physical grounds in camera, but not petitions for dissolution of marriage, which must be heard in open court. It was also decided in Druce v. Druce, 1903, 19 T.L.R. 387, that, in cases for judicial separation the court has jurisdiction to hear the case in camera, where it is satisfied that justice cannot be done by hearing the case in public.