The Ministry of Justice and HMCTS have now agreed in principle on a route to publishing online court listings for all courts, including magistrates courts. The Criminal Procedure Rules Committee on 4 October considering a discussion paper approved an amended set of rules that cuts through the impenetrable system of DPA, Common Law etc to present a new codification for publishing court listings online.
‘The object of the amendments is to supply explicit authority for established practice, and to supply authority for an enlargement of that practice when possible by more extensive electronic publication of information about cases listed to be heard.’
An extract of the new rules is below and the paper is a must read. It’s entertaining to see Mike Cross’s piece in the LSG appended to the discussion paper and Mike has covered these developments in the LSG. You can see all the papers for the CRPC online.
We have been campaigning to open up courts for some time and this rule amendment is a limited, but welcome step in the right direction. I understand the work has taken two years and reflects Minister’s views. The rules will come into force in April 2014. BUT and it’s a big BUT officials from HM Courts and Tribunal Service, speaking at Monday’s Crime and Justice Sector Transparency Panel don’t think this will lead to publication online for over two years, due to the problems with their IT systems (the notorious LIBRA). This is rather pathetic – Francis Davey (a fellow transparency panel member) and I have asked for a meeting with HMCTS officials and their IT suppliers.
Also of course there is nothing here on results (ie who is guilty, who innocent, which trials collapsed).
People familiar with how the internet works will also spot the weirdness of a two-day limited publication period. Which the discussion paper explains as:
‘information routinely published about cases listed for hearing in public should include only such details of those cases as is needed to assist the public, including reporters, in making an informed choice about which hearings to attend, or about which to enquire further after the case is heard; and should be made available only for such a period as is necessary to meet that objective.’
The trick to my mind here is not to limit publication times but to ensure that there are effective criminal sanctions to punish abuse. Just as there are with copyright, for instance, but in this case more stringent and enforced in the criminal courts, not as a civil process.
On topic, reasonable comments welcome. Extract from rules follows:
(9) The court officer must publish the information listed in paragraph (11) if—
(a) the information is available to the court officer;
(b) the hearing to which the information relates is due to take place in public; and
(c) the publication of the information is not prohibited by a reporting restriction.
(10) The court officer must publish that information—
(a) by notice displayed somewhere prominent in the vicinity of the court room in which the hearing is due to take place;
(b) by such other arrangements as the Lord Chancellor directs, including arrangements for publication by electronic means; and
(c) for no longer than 2 business days.
(11) The information that paragraph (9) requires the court officer to publish is—
(a) the date, time and place of the hearing;
(b) the identity of the defendant; and
(c) such other information as it may be practicable to publish concerning—
(i) the type of hearing,
(ii) the identity of the court,
(iii) the offence or offences alleged, and
(iv) whether any reporting restriction will apply at the hearing.
I shall no doubt write more on this topic in due course but thought it was worth sharing this now.
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