New Technology and Researchers’ Access to Court and Tribunal Information: the need for European analysis

Philip Leith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We discuss the limitations and rights which may affect the researcher’s access to and use of digital, court and administrative tribunal based information. We suggest that there is a need for a European-wide investigation of the legal framework which affects the researcher who might wish to utilise this form of information. A European-wide context is required because much of the relevant law is European rather than national, but much of the constraints are cultural. It is our thesis that research improves understanding and then improves practice as that understanding becomes part of public debate. If it is difficult to undertake research, then public debate about the court system – its effectiveness, its biases, its strengths – becomes constrained. Access to court records is currently determined on a discretionary basis or on the basis of interpretation of rules of the court where these are challenged in legal proceedings. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that there are significant variations in the extent to which court documents such as pleadings, transcripts, affidavits etc are made generally accessible under court rules or as a result of litigation in different jurisdictions or, indeed, in different courts in the same jurisdiction. Such a lack of clarity can only encourage a chilling of what might otherwise be valuable research. Courts are not, of course, democratic bodies. However, they are part of a democratic system and should, we suggest – both for the public benefit and for their proper operation – be accessible and criticisable by the independent researcher. The extent to which the independent researcher is enabled access is the subject of this article. The rights of access for researchers and the public have been examined in other common law countries but not, to date, in the UK or Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
Issue numbernull
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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