Regional press journalists have welcomed news that for the first time the government has given them the right to have free access to magistrates court lists.
Since March some regional newspapers have stopped carrying the lists of magistrates court cases which are a staple of local crime reporting after new photocopying fees of 50p a page were instituted.
The Bradford Telegraph and Argus had to drop reports because it would have had to pay £40,000 a year for the lists.
Yesterday justice secretary Jack straw announced that the charges were to be dropped nationwide.
Telegraph and Argus editor Perry Austin-Clarke said today: “I am delighted that Mr Straw has listened to the common sense of our representations and abolished these charges.
“We were forced to stop publishing the court registers because it would have cost the T&A tens of thousands of pounds every year. But this information must be freely available to allow justice to be seen to be done through the medium of local newspapers, which have been the public’s only easily-accessible source of the results of court cases for decades.
“I look forward to being able to publish them again in the near future.”
Newspaper Society director of political editorial and regulatory affiars Santha Rasaiah said: “The Newspaper Society is delighted by Jack Straw’s decision, in response to the representations by the Newspaper Society, local newspaper editors and Society of Editors.
“This does not only put a stop to the claims by some courts that they were obliged to start charging individual titles some tens of thousands of pounds in annual fees, whereas any charges were previously discretionary.
“It actually improves the agreement negotiated by the NS and then Guild of Editors nearly 20 years ago that the court lists and court registers should be provided to local newspapers, by requiring that they now be provided for free.
“This recognises the important role that local newspapers play in reporting the day to day work of the local courts.
“As the Justice Secretary says this ‘makes the important point that local and regional newspapers are the backbone of our democracy. It is important that we should do everything we can to support them.'”