Free access to court lists announced

The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, has announced a U-turn on a controversial scheme to charge journalists to see the court lists that are the staple of crime reporting.

Press Gazette has been told by the Ministry of Justice that the change takes effect immediately, meaning journalists now have free access to the daily lists of magistrates’ courts’ cases.

Announcing the changes on Tuesday, Straw said: ‘Media will now be better able to report accurately and factually, as they strive to do, on proceedings in magistrates’ courts.

‘This will help increase confidence in the criminal justice system and deter offending. It also supports compliance with obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights to ensure that trials are held in public.”

The Society of Editors has been campaigning on this issue as have regional editors such as Ed Asquith at the Scarborough Evening News.

Society director Bob Satchwell said: ‘At last someone has grasped the nettle and made a sensible decision which will help not only the media but will help maintain public confidence in the legal system’

Access to the court lists has been subject to a charge since 1989. Then, in March, photocopying fees of 50p a page were introduced around the country.

The Bradford Telegraph & Argus said at the time it had been forced to drop some court coverage because of the estimated £40,000-a-year cost of obtaining lists from the 12 courts in the area.

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