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Risk of further delays and privacy breaches in 'Open Justice' plans, warns APIL

Risk of further delays and privacy breaches in 'Open Justice' plans, warns APIL


Campaign group APIL (the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) has raised concerns over proposals to grant non-parties access to court documents in civil proceedings, warning of potential delays and privacy breaches

Responding to a consultation on amending the Civil Procedure Rules, APIL emphasised the need for a case-by-case approach to protect individuals' rights. The proposed changes would permit non-parties to obtain skeleton arguments, witness statements, and expert reports without court permission, unless a relevant party seeks an order to restrict access. Medical records, however, would remain confidential.

Kim Harrison, Vice President of APIL, stressed the importance of assessing cases individually to strike a balance between open justice and privacy rights. Particularly, she emphasised the need to safeguard vulnerable parties and children from public disclosure, avoiding exacerbating their suffering.

While acknowledging the significance of open justice in ensuring transparency and accountability, Harrison underscored the need to reconcile this with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, safeguarding individuals' right to privacy and family life.

Addressing concerns about the practical implications of the proposals, APIL highlighted the potential workload associated with thorough document checks to prevent the release of confidential and sensitive information. The process of redacting such information would incur significant costs and time burdens on lawyers and court staff, exacerbating existing delays in county court cases.

The proposals follow a report presented to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee (CPRC) in response to the Supreme Court's judgment in Cape v Dring, advocating for increased document access in the interest of open justice.

APIL urges the CPRC to consider the practical challenges and privacy implications of the proposed changes, particularly in cases involving sensitive matters such as sexual abuse, and to ensure adequate safeguards are in place to protect individuals' privacy rights.