Open justice: ‘Wide-ranging’ initiatives this year

A ‘wide ranging call for evidence’ and a ‘charter for members of the public’ will be among the government initiatives to strengthen open justice this year, ministers said today. 

The government was responding to the House of Commons Justice Committee’s report Court Reporting in the Digital Age, which last year raised concerns about the difficulties of reporting the courts. 

In a letter welcoming the MPs report, courts minister Mike Freer MP said that the government ‘remains committed to upholding the principle of open justice’.

In 2023, ‘the Ministry of Justice will launch a wide-ranging call for evidence exploring the themes of open justice, access to information and data, and transparency across our courts and tribunals. In this open policymaking exercise, we will gather stakeholders’ views on how we can support and strengthen openness, transparency, and the accessibility of our court and tribunal services.’

He added: ‘This exercise will help us target our limited resources where they can have the biggest impact.’

However the response rejects the call for new legislation ‘to define the proper limits of open justice’, stating that the principle is ‘amply’ established in the common law, specific statutes and under the Human Rights Act. 

It also rejects as impractical a committee recommendation for HMCTS to collect and publish data on remote hearings. Because of the number of conferencing systems in use ‘it is unable to gather reliable data on the total number of requests or actual observers at hearings that utilise video conferencing technology.’

To tackle the decline in court reporting by the media, the response says the government is taking steps to make courts and tribunals more accessible ‘including directly to the public’. Measures include legislation enabling the broadcast of judges’ sentencing remarks.

Meanwhile, the government will this year ‘develop and publish a charter for the public that summarises the existing rules that facilitate public access to court and tribunal hearings and information.’


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