Skip to main content


Link Copied

“Why are you here?” Open justice in London magistrates’ courts

Fionnuala Ratcliffe and Penelope Gibbs
20 May 2024
Read the full report
Read the full report Download
Open justice in the courts is not an optional extra, or something nice to have – it is a fundament of a functioning justice system.
The Secret Barrister

This report summarises courtwatchers’ experiences of trying to observe magistrates’ court hearings in London. It is based on data from CourtWatch London, a mass court observation project where citizen volunteers observed magistrates’ court hearings and reported what they saw

Despite courts in principle being open to any who want to observe, our volunteers faced many barriers to seeing how justice is done. Audibility issues, inaccurate court lists and courtroom jargon made it difficult for courtwatchers to work out what was happening. Volunteers were often asked to justify their presence by those working in the court. This points to a court system that has deprioritised public access. 

Our report includes ten ways to make our magistrates’ courts more open and accessible, including a courtroom audibility audit, sending “secret shoppers” into courts to test accessibility, prioritising public access in courtroom design, and training for magistrates, judges and court staff. 

Read the full report
Read the full report Download
Transform Justice