Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger’s promise that ‘justice can be seen to be done at a time which suits you’ through the court’s new ‘iPlayer’-type service comes with a catch, transparency campaigners have discovered. 

Videos of proceedings, supposed to be viewable at ‘any time, any place’, have a one-year time limit before they vanish for five years from the public domain. In what one activist described as a ‘Byzantine process’, they will resurface five years later in the National Archives.

Meanwhile, users may not download or edit any of the video content the Supreme Court publishes

The Supreme Court cites cost and copyright as the reasons for the restrictions, but campaigners for justice transparency say the court has missed an opportunity. ‘This is a classic case of court procedure not keeping up with the modern age,’ said community activist William Perrin, who sits on the government’s Crime and Justice Sector Transparency Panel.

‘There’s a huge opportunity for the Supreme Court to allow justice to be seen to be done in a modern way – at a time and place people choose online.’ 

Perrin said that rules devised for another age ‘impose a Byzantine process that restricts access for a year and then squirrels it away in the National Archive. This video content should be declared public domain so that academics, legal publishers, video companies and parties to the cases can do new and fascinating things with it’.

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said that footage is not available to download or re-edit as participants in proceedings have not assigned their intellectual property rights to the Crown. There would also be concerns over defamation, as courtroom privilege would not apply to those re-editing or re-publishing the videos.

A lack of resources prevent proceedings being available for more than a year, the spokesman said, but he added that the court will review feedback next spring to see whether there is enough demand to extend the archive further back.