The Ministry of Justice and HM Courts & Tribunals Service have announced that the Government is to establish a free, comprehensive database of all judgments delivered in England and Wales, starting in April 2022. It is to include European case law as well as judgments from domestic courts. The press release says that, following recommendations made by The Legal Education Foundation in its Digital Justice Report, “the Ministry of Justice committed to standardising its approach to the publication of judgments and chose The National Archives because of its long-standing expertise in storing and publishing information securely. It will take on the work as part of its statutory duties under the Public Records Act 1958.”
In answer to the inevitable question, “so where does that leave BAILII?” – without which we could not write this blog – the press release notes that BAILII will continue to provide “free access to judgments, for other jurisdictions, including Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth, as well as for England and Wales”.
Joshua Rozenberg reports Sir Ross Cranston, who chairs BAILII’s trustees, as saying that the changes
“in no way diminish BAILII’s role in providing free access to the judgments of the courts and tribunals of the UK, Ireland and other common law jurisdictions. The continued generosity of our donors and supporters will allow us to expand our offering not only to those throughout the UK and Ireland, but also internationally where our law is used and valued.”
BAILII said that it would continue to provide the most comprehensive single source of free legal information, “not just for England and Wales but also for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and other important common law jurisdictions” and it would be working with the Legal Education Foundation to support the National Archives in developing its new services and to develop BAILII’s own broader service.
We very much hope so, not least because BAILII is a critical source of judgments from Scotland and from both Irish jurisdictions – but the Ministry of Justice is to stop funding BAILII next April.