The other day the senior judiciary published the actions they’d agreed as a result of their consultation of colleagues about digital court reform. All deal with the issue of open justice, which seems to be of great concern to rank and file judges. The responses in each jurisdiction are slightly different. Many tribunal proceedings are going online – so how can the public get access to an online/virtual process? Lord Justice Ryder responds:
– “The design concept is to afford appropriate scrutiny to the public by digital means as an alternative to or in addition to open hearings
– The identified solution is to record all Tribunal hearings as the primary ‘record of proceedings’ under the Rules, to identify a recording solution for video hearings and continuous online resolution and to identify which hearings are to remain face to face and open and which are to be digitally open
– Recording will be made available to be watched or listened to by members of the public”.
The criminal paper doesn’t really address the challenges of making online court processes open but does address how to make virtual hearings accessible to the public:
“Where hearings are to be conducted by telephone or fully video (i.e. no one in court, all parties connected via technology) I believe that open justice would be secured by a live link to a viewing area in the court building where the case is listed. The judge or bench would be aware that the hearing was being observed; staff would supervise any such area. This would address your powerfully expressed cogent concerns about live streaming, broadcasting, recording or interfering with the footage. In August, we made that suggestion to HMCTS and, in October, their open justice team made some general and wide-ranging proposals to the JRB. We have sought confirmation that our simple, practical proposal will be put in place. The live link from my Inquiry (from court to a tent in the Quad at the RCJ) was entirely successful and should not be difficult to replicate. I would not be averse to a hearing being viewable in another court building in addition to the court where the case is listed provided that people in the locality where the offence occurred (where the hearing will be listed) are able to observe it…Let me be clear. Nothing will be done to reduce the openness of the criminal court process or to undermine it”.
I am astonished that the open justice challenges of the digital court reform programme have not had more scrutiny. And these judiciary documents beg more questions than they answer
As ever very interested in your views….