22 April 2009

Court Campaign

Scarborough Evening News editor Ed Asquith seems a step closer to victory in his campaign to get court lists and results published online.

HoldtheFrontPage reports that after five months of communication with HM Courts Service, asking them to reconsider the imposition of fees for court lists, the JP editor has received a letter from justice secretary Jack Straw that says he hopes to make court lists available electronically, possibly this summer.

If that hope becomes a reality, journalists would be able to retrieve court lists and registers with password-protected access.

Last summer, some papers had to suspend court coverage because they could not afford photocopying charges. In July, the justice secretary announced that court results must be available free to local newspapers, abolishing a 1989 provision that gave magistrates the right to charge a fee.

For the Evening News, Asquith said, the costs would have amounted to £13,000 a year; he said papers such as the one in Bradford faced annual costs of £40,000. "The move towards a digital solution is a remarkable development," he said.

Electronic publication of case outcomes also has been sought by the Society of Editors and Newspaper Society.

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