Press unite to keep judicial review documents public

The Financial TImes is today celebrating a victory for Freedom of Information after a High Court judge said the government’s attempts to block access judicial review documents was “strange and possible unjust”.

The FT, which was joined in the challenge by The Guardian and The Times, had been fighting to access information relating to the Serious Fraud Office’s enquiry into arms company BAE Systems, which were blocked by the government. The paper asked for details of a legal challenge by two non-governmental organisations over the government’s decision to halt the BAE probe.

Mr Justice Collins said in court yesterday that attempts to block access to court documents was “illogical”. Government requests for leave to appeal the decision were rejected.

The FT’s lawyer Dan Tench said the move would ensure greater openess. He said in today’s FT: “Important political ussies are played out very frequently in judicial review proceedings.”

Open justice rules introduced in October 2006 gave the press and public the right to request “statements of case”, which includes the details of a claims and the defence of any court case, in cluding high profile commercial disputes and employment claims. But the Ministry of Justice, according to the FT, had argued that judicial review proceedings were not covered by the rules.

A court case over the legality of the government’s decisiont to the BAE probe is expected later this year.

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