Closed Justice: How British Courts Are Still Keeping the Public in the Dark

Reporting public court cases can sometimes feel like you have come into a conversation halfway through and are then left struggling to understand what is being talked about. It is an open court, but it feels like it is being conducted as private business between the lawyers and the judge. Barristers often start their speeches by saying that they have submitted their arguments in a document to the judge so there is no need to repeat some of them to the court. The documents, however, are often not passed to the press or members of the public sitting in the courtroom, leaving them in the dark. At other times, barristers point to a passage in a document, and then the judge and the lawyers sit there in silence reading it before the proceedings resume. Again, those documents have invariably not been shared with the press or public who have no idea what was being examined. In theory, we have open justice in this country. In practice, it often does not seem like that. The Guardian today reports on how one multinational company, Ineos, backed down and disclosed a legal document that it used to justify a controversial sweeping injunction against anti-fracking protesters. The Guardian had requested the document under open justice guidelines. The petrochemical giant refused to disclose it, arguing that while it had been referred to in the open hearing, that did not mean that it was a public document. It said that the document did not address all the issues in the case which had been adjourned. The company later argued that the legal arguments set out in the document had been superseded. The multinational handed over the document last week.

Read more: Rob Evans, Guardian,

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