A new online official government record of court judgements was launched this week. The service is the first of its kind and has been described as a “vital step towards better transparency” in the justice system.
The service, which launched as an alpha version on Tuesday, will be presented by National Archives and is known as Find Case Law. Judgements will be available for republication under a new copyright known as the Open Justice License.
The judgements will be held as live data, allowing specific details to be redacted. All decisions made by courts and tribunals will be sent into the system via the Transfer Digital Records function. John Sheridan, National Archives’ digital director, said:
“We understand this is a service we need to develop and improve, particularly in terms of coverage. We want feedback.
[The Transfer Digital Records function] gives us a chain of custody rather than email chaos. [The system is a move] from a somewhat ambiguous situation to clarity.”
The Open Justice License will only apply to the current version of a judgement, meaning amended or unpublished judgements’ licenses will cease to be published. Judgements can also analysed and processed by computers for the purposes of case outcome prediction, though this requires a separate license which the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will automatically approve if previously granted. New grants will be made if the processing and analysis is in line with the “proper administration of justice”.
The alpha version of the service, which is live now, is said to be lacking information such as historic judgements – this will be updated over the next 12 months. Sheridan said “[the launch version] gives a sense of what the future will hold”.
The MoJ said in a statement on Tuesday:
“[National Archives] will work with the MoJ and the Judiciary to expand coverage of what is published and made accessible to the public, including judgments from the lower courts.”
Justice minister James Cartlidge MP said of the service:
“[Find Case Law] is a vital step towards better transparency. The first official government record of judgments is a modern one-stop shop that will benefit everyone, from lawyers and judges to academics, journalists and members of the public.”
The launch of Find Case Law comes as the MoJ’s 20-year association with the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) ends. BAILII said they “have been glad to assist The National Archives in launching their new service”.
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