Law, Justice and Journalism

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

A call to free English case law

In City University London, Journalism, Law on August 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm

By Judith Townend

Legal data collection should happen as a matter of course. Lawyers and judges often scold the media for its representation of legal cases. “There are lots of judgments that have been criticised where it’s quite apparent that people haven’t read them,” Mr Justice Eady told legal journalist Joshua Rozenberg earlier this year.

Eady, who has heard numerous libel and privacy cases, is probably right that some journalists had not read the full content of judgments freely available on the BAILII website before reporting on the various so-called superinjunctions of 2009-11. But injunction decisions and applications are not always made accessible to the public.

Comprehensive information about case law is difficult to come by. A good deal is locked behind paid-for subscription services, or may not exist in written form. Certain legal statistics cannot be examined because no-one has collected, categorised or counted.

It is feasible that some newspapers, with their commercial agenda, would not make use of such data, if it were at odds with the popular editorial narrative. Perhaps not, but it would enable members of the public, researchers and bloggers to interrogate journalists’ analysis and challenge misrepresentations where they occur.

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