New Case Law Archive

There is about to be launched a formal Government Archive of british Case Law. I have not had chance to preview it, but I must and do welcome it, and hope that it manages properly to satisfy the need for case law.

I have no privileged information, so what follows is in part derived from advance publicity and in part chance discussions with my peers.

The first announced ambition was to publish everything. All cases: that simple. I understand that that ambition has properly been put to one side. Just what will be published remains to be seen. The coverage issue is as to ranges – across what courts (levels of court hearings), and whether there is to be any attempt to provide an historical coverage (old cases).

We first must look to and acknowledge the contribution made by Bailii. The British and Irish Legal Information Institute has a much better than honourable record, and in the context of the worldwide movement of Legal Information Institutes along with Austlii has led the world. Bailii’s database is universally respected and admired, and used. They have covered all higher level courts and many lower and first level courts. The expections for publication of court cases has changed substantially over time, and again and moreso over the last few years. Bailii therefore includes now employment tribunal decisions, a good number of county court and magistrates court decisions, those from the information commissioners and the first tier tribunals and employment tribunals, nominet decisions and crown court cases of various flavours from Northern Ireland. I can see why these are published, and have no personal objection, but I admit that I would omit some of these without feeling much of a loss.

Another source of decisions is the Judiciary website. They do not publish a full range of cases, but seem ti restrict their reporting to those required for modern transparency requrements with a modicum of newsworthy cases. Thus they publish many Anonymity applications, all committals for Contempt of court (I think), and assorted remarks of Crown Court judges on sentencing in noteworthy cases. There are good reasons for publishing each of these, but they are non-traditional, and would get nowhere near publication in traditional law reports without in some way carrying additional particular reasons by way of properly argued points of law.

More Later . .