Ministry of Justice officials are working on ways to make transcripts of court proceedings available to victims of crime, a minister has revealed. But, speaking in parliament last week, Mike Freer MP did not respond to calls for immediate legislation to make this possible.
Freer was speaking in an adjournment debate tabled by Sarah Olney, Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, who cited the case of a rape victim being charged £7,500 for a transcript of her assailant’s trial. Olney said she had discovered that some victims face bills of up to £22,000. ’How can anyone be expected to pay such a fee?', she asked. 'Court transcripts should not be a luxury that only those very few victims with thousands to spare can afford. Transcripts are so important, because they are often the only means available to victims to establish exactly what happened during a trial.’
Olney noted that the House of Commons Justice Committee has repeatedly recommended that the government take steps to improve access to court transcripts. Justice committee chair Bob Neill is among 40 signatories of an open letter to the justice secretary calling on the government to amend its Victims and Prisoners Bill, currently before the Commons, to enable victims and bereaved families to request a court transcript free of charge.
Responding, Freer said: ’The Ministry of Justice has been working to make court records, such as transcripts, judgments and judicial sentencing remarks, increasingly accessible, including through more of them being published online. I reassure the hon. Lady that we are carefully considering the issues that she raises as part of that work. We are committed to ensuring that victims are supported at every juncture of the criminal justice system.'
Freer said the victims bill would set ’overarching principles’ for the victims' code,’ including entitlements for victims to be provided with information about the criminal justice process, as well as access to support services’.
This article is now closed for comment.