National Archives to provide free access to court judgments
Judgments will be migrated from BAILII when its government contract expires in April 2022
From April 2022, free access to England and Wales court and tribunal judgments will be available via The National Archives, offering a single source of information for judgment publications.
The change comes after the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) committed to standardising its approach to the publication of judgments following recommendations made by The Legal Education Foundation in its Digital Justice Report.
Currently, there are multiple sources for court judgment publications, with the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) being the most comprehensive resource.
However, when BAILII’s government contract expires next year, The National Archives will take over, providing the website as part of their statutory duties under the Public Records Act 1958.
As the official archive and publisher for the government, the MoJ said The National Archives had been chosen due to its “long-standing expertise in storing and publishing information securely” and that it has the “expertise and guidance” necessary to offer infrastructure for future expansion.
The MoJ said the website will “[save] time and money for lawyers, judges, academics, journalists, students and members of the public who require them for vital case preparation or research purposes”.
Judicial Review rulings, European case law, commercial judgments and significant cases from the High Court, Upper Tier Tribunal, and the Court of Appeal will all be available, with the long term aim being that all sources of judgments migrate onto The National Archives website.
The lord chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, said: “Ensuring court judgments are easily accessible is central to the rule of law and the principle of open justice.
“This new service will ensure they remain accessible to anyone who needs them, under safe and secure arrangements with The National Archives.
Dr Natalie Byrom, director of research at The Legal Education Foundation, said: “This is a critical step towards achieving a more transparent, open and equitable justice system, that supports access to justice and data-driven reform”.
BAILII will continue to provide free access to judgments, for other jurisdictions, including Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth, as well as England and Wales.
Buckland commented: “Having used BAILII myself as a criminal barrister, I am extremely grateful for the work they have done over the years to make judgments available to the public”.
Chief executive and keeper at The National Archives, Jeff James, said: “Court and tribunal judgments are vital public records. As world leaders in digital archiving and legal publishing, The National Archives will ensure that judgments are safely preserved and made accessible for the centuries to come”.