Publication of listed judgments: towards a new benchmark of digital open justice – Final report
The National Archives launched its Find Case Law database in mid-April 2022, under a new judgment publication system mandated by the Ministry of Justice. ICLR systematically monitored the publication of listed cases under this new system over its first twelve months of operation. Our report combines statistics for the efficiency and coverage of cases listed for judgment in the Daily Cause List with other publication data, and monitors the relationship between the listing and publication of judgments as part of the overall judgments data ecosystem and its importance to Open Justice.… Continue reading
By the end of its first full year of operation, the Find Case Law database operated by The National Archives was largely achieving its stated aim of routinely publishing new judgments from the senior courts and tribunals of England and Wales on the day they were handed down, or soon after.
Most of the problems and delays identified in the early days of the service have been resolved. But one main problem remains: not all courts and tribunals are routinely sending their judgments to The National Archives (TNA) for publication. That problem was most noticeable in the case of judges, particularly deputy judges, sitting in the High Court. It is also something outside TNA’s control.
The performance of the new database was mainly measured by reference to the reserved judgments listed in the Daily Cause Lists for the Royal Courts of Justice and the Rolls Building, and therefore does not accurately capture performance in relation to unlisted or unreserved judgments or those obtained from courts and tribunals listed elsewhere.
The best publication rates thus measured were for the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal, which achieved an average of 97% over the year. The Administrative Court sitting in London achieved an average rate of 85%. But the average across all the courts was just under 80%, combining both those published on the day of judgment (around 63%) with those published late – up to a month or so afterwards (another 16%). That still means that around one in five listed judgments that might be expected to be published (20%) are not appearing on Find Case Law.
Although that figure might appear to be an improvement on the figure of 25% reported in our earlier, interim report covering the first three months of the Find Case Law’s operation, the reasons for the difference is that this final report now excludes from the statistics those courts, such as county courts, whose judgments are not normally expected to be published.
While extending its analysis of the publication rates across the whole year, this final report also considers TNA’s performance in the wider context of the court information ecosystem. This may be of particular relevance in the context of the Ministry of Justice’s current open justice consultation.
The National Archives launched its Find Case Law database in mid-April 2022, under a new judgment publication system mandated by the Ministry of Justice. ICLR began systematically monitoring the publication of listed judgment from the beginning of May 2022. This report is based on Find Case Law’s performance over the first twelve full months of operation, ie until the end of April 2023.
In that time, Find Case Law has gradually replaced BAILII as the official archive and primary source of court judgments. It is now common to find news stories and commentary on recent cases linking directly to the content on Find Case Law rather than, as previously, to BAILII.
Under TNA’s Open Justice licence, ICLR and others may republish what is regarded as the official version of a judgment; and under its Transactional Licence, third parties may obtain and process bulk judgment data for use in the development of law tech products. ICLR has taken advantage of this to expand the scope and utility of its AI-driven case law research tool, Case Genie. None of this would have been possible before the establishment of Find Case Law.
Some problems remain. The platform interface and search functions are still quite basic, even compared with BAILII (which continues to publish all the same content), and it stretches credibility for Find Case Law still to be claiming to be an “alpha” service (ie not even “beta”) more than a year after launch.
Apart from the failure of some judges to supply their judgments, there remain a number of small problems to be addressed. These are addressed in the report, and recommendations made. Source data has been recorded in tables and charts set out in the appendices to the report.
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) was founded in 1865 and is the official publisher of The Law Reports, The Weekly Law Reports and a number of specialist publications, and provides access to reported and unreported case law online via its website at www.iclr.co.uk
The National Archives (TNA), which also manages the official statute law database, www.legislation.gov.uk, began to publish case law under a contract with the Ministry of Justice from April 2022, when it launched the Find Case Law database.
The British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) was founded in 2000 and publishes case law and legislation from various jurisdictions, as well as some other content, on its website at www.bailii.org. It was under contract to publish case law from the senior courts of England & Wales from 2003 to 2022, when The National Archives took over.
The Daily Cause List for the Royal Courts of Justice and the Rolls Building is published by His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) which is an executive agency jointly managed by the Judiciary and the Ministry of Justice.
The report has been written by Paul Magrath, Head of Product Development and Online Content, and Greg Beresford, Case Data Analyst, at ICLR.
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