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Supreme Court to allow public access to court documents

31 July 2019

On 29 July 2019 the Supreme Court ruled that the public should be allowed access to all court documents – if the applicant can show why they need them. Simon Rose, founder and MD of Morgan Rose, assesses the ruling and its potential implications.

Led by Lady Hale, the five justices in the Supreme Court made the ruling in the case of Cape Intermediate Holdings Ltd v Dring (for and on behalf of Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK) .

Preparing evidence, pre-hearing documents and court bundles can be a lengthy and costly process. This valuable information could now be publicly available to interested parties, such as academics, lawyers and members of the public, who can prove they have a valid need to access the information and, importantly, how it will advance the ‘open justice’ principle.

Lady Hale said: ‘The default position should be to grant access to documents placed before a judge and referred to by a party at trial unless there was a good reason not to do so. It should not be limited by what the judge has chosen to read.’

The news can be read in full here, on the Law Society Gazette website.

What does the public access ruling mean for litigants?

The decision makes the choice between arbitration and court proceedings rather more stark. Whilst the onus is on the applicant to prove why they need access to the documents, this ruling has the potential to make applicants, who want (or need) to maintain privacy, to view arbitration as their only option.

For an individual – or their lawyers – preparing for a court case, the ruling could bring significant financial benefits, if it provides access to relevant and valuable witness statements and disclosure documents at no cost other than an application to the court.

For information or advice on how this Supreme Court public access ruling may affect you, please get in touch with us here at Morgan Rose.

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