Advance listings of hearings in all criminal courts could be available online from next year, under an amendment proposed to the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee.
At present, most court lists are distributed externally only to established newspapers under the so-called ‘press protocol’. However, the Ministry of Justice’s crime and justice sector transparency panel, set up in 2011 to encourage wider access to data, has urged open publication.
The panel heard last week that the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee is planning to enable publication as soon as courtroom IT systems are up to the task.
A paper circulated to the panel reveals that the committee intends to amend rule 5.8 ‘to authorise and require the publication by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service of basic details of cases listed to be heard in public in the criminal courts.’ Details, including the names and addresses of defendants, the nature of charges and whether reporting restrictions are likely to be imposed, would be available online for a limited period, expected to be two days.
The paper quotes a Gazette blog from 15 July as making the case that ‘public advertisement of proceedings is an essential part of the open justice principle’.
If approved by the rule committee, the amendments could be signed in December and come into force next April. However, last week’s panel meeting heard that, because of the need to upgrade court IT systems, online results might not be available for at least a year after that.
Panel member and former Cabinet Office civil servant William Perrin, who has led a campaign for lists to be published online, described the expected delay as ‘rather pathetic’.