Magistrates courts across England and Wales have been encouraged to supply local newspapers with free court lists by email.
HM Courts Service issued the guidance after justice secretary Jack Straw announced a U-turn last summer on plans to charge for access to the lists which are the staple of crime reporting.
The letter, sent to all courts on Wednesday, sets out what HMCS said were “appropriate common-sense safeguards” to ensure newspapers get full access to court information.
Where possible, copies of the court lists and court registers should be supplied by email. If this is not possible, newspapers should be able to collect a free hard copy from the court or pay the cost of postage.
The guidelines said: “The government believes that assisting newspapers to report what is happening in their local courts is important for increasing confidence in the criminal justice system.
“It also supports compliance with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to ensure that justice is open and trials are held in public.
“The government has therefore decided that the courts should not normally charge newspapers for the supply of court registers or court lists, whatever the form in which they are supplied.”