The Magistrates’ Association (MA) has responded to the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry into open justice.
As part of the inquiry, the committee is interested in finding out “how digital technology has affected the way that the media and the public access and report on the courts”.
It has already heard evidence from Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division. This focused on his recent Transparency Review, which explored, among other areas, measures to make the family courts more open.
The committee’s inquiry has come at a time when open justice in courts has been impacted by COVID-19. The MA’s evidence focused on:
- The single justice procedure
- The operation of online courts and online processes (for example, entering a plea)
- Making sure that online processes ensure fair and effective participation of all parties.
Our evidence calls for:
- A strategy for open justice that ensures it is a key priority for HMCTS.
- Proper resourcing of the magistrates’ courts to support online publication of judgments.
- Greater efforts to inform defendants about the gravity of online pleas, and that it is just as serious as attending court.