Friday, 8 July 2011

Archive of legal judgements to be made available to the public

I was reading that more judgments in Jersey Courts, previously unreported and only accessible by legal people (solicitors, advocates etc) were now to be made available to the general public.

This is certainly true, and I was fascinated to read one trust administrator who had been using his client's funds fraudulently after he had actually been taken in and lost money to a Nigerian scam!

A significant proportion of the money was lost in a fraudulent Nigerian "get rich-quick" scheme into which the defendant had been drawn...The Nigerian involvement had represented a desperate attempt to recoup the earlier losses.

But there are some cases which previously were in the public domain, and have now been restricted behind the system. If you pay £25 pay - and have valid reasons - and comply with terms and conditions, you can see the judgement, otherwise it has now been restricted.

I noticed this with the Johnson V Lucas Case, which I had accessed (and printed) when it was in the public domain only three weeks ago - it is now closed off behind a login screen. Why this should be confidential - about events in 1982, when most of the principal people involved are dead - is beyond me! If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would assume that my blog postings "A Divided Parish" might have had something to do with it. This was the link, now blocked.

Also the judgement in the appeal of the Jervis-Dykes Case, which again used to be in the public domain is no longer available except behind a login. They did mention child abuse matters would be restricted, but this has been online and available for years - and it does not name any of the students abused.

I see no reason why it should not be online, especially as the main reports - including pupils accounts (with no names) - are in the pages of the Jersey Evening Post, and the Sharp Report is now available from almost any number of internet locations (it seems to be breeding!). I don't think it is a conspiracy, just a blanket policy

Again, this was the link, now blocked:

and the JEP ran stories - so hardly not in the public domain!

27/04/1999 - No comment from Victoria College over criticism in Royal Court during sexual assault case
28/04/1999 - Families speak of anguish caused by Victoria College teacher's sexual assaults
29/04/1999 - Victoria College sex abuse inquiry is ordered after Jervis Dykes case
06/05/1999 -Victoria College sex abuse inquiry: There will be no cover-up, say Education
07/05/1999 - Editorial on Victoria College teacher's sexual assault case
24/06/1999 - Victoria College teacher's sexual assault case: Senior teachers brought to account
16/07/1999 - Editorial on Victoria College head's resignation over Jervis Dykes assault case
16/07/1999 -News focus on Jervis Dykes assault case cover-up at Victoria College
16/07/1999 -Victoria College head resigns over Jervis Dykes assault case cover-up
17/07/1999 - Head of Victoria College teacher's sexual assault cover-in inquiry is commenced

Looking at some of the other cases, I notice that CORBY and LEWIS v. LE MAIN [1982 J.J. 157] is restricted, but again was in the public domain before the re-organisation. This was the case where Deputy Le Main was alleged to have behaved in a manner unbecoming a States member:

CRILL, DEPUTY BAILIFF: This action arises from allegations of the Plaintiffs [Corby and Lewis] first, that as a result of the interference of the Defendant [Deputy Terry Le Main], who is a Deputy of the States, with a contract between the First Plaintiff and the Housing Committee for towing vehicles away from its properties, the Second Plaintiff was taken off the job for a month; second, that some time later the Defendant made an intimidating telephone call to the First Plaintiff; and, third, that the Defendant approached a number of people, including some parochial officials, telling them that they ought not to employ either the First Plaintiff, if he was employing the Second Plaintiff, or the Second Plaintiff himself because the latter had a criminal record.

In the course of the hearing Advocate Labesse for the Defendant admitted that the Defendant had approached the following persons in addition to the Housing Committee's Estate Manager, Mr. P. Seymour; (1) The Secretary of St. Brelade, (2) The Constable of St. Saviour, (3) The Greffier of St. Helier, (4) Mr. Pitman, the Chief Administrative Officer of the Public Works Committee and (5) The Secretary of St. Peter. None of these people with the exception of the Constable of St. Saviour, and only if he were approached on States business, fall within the immunity provisions of Article 37 of the States of Jersey Law, even if we were to accept that the motive for the Defendant's action, as he told us, was his grave dislike of the Plaintiff in the sense only that, being a newcomer to the Island, he ought not to have been able to obtain employment to the detriment, as the Defendant saw it, of the local labour force. Exactly at what point a newcomer becomes acceptable as part of the local labour force was not explained to us.

All of these cases, however, had been in the public domain, and the internet search engines and archive systems have cheerfully cached them, so all is not lost, and they still remain in the public domain.

It is disquieting though, that some kind of blanket policy seems to have applied without recourse to checking what had been made freely available to the public before, and I wonder how many other cases this may apply to. The policy of being more open and available to the public has actually led to some areas being more restricted and less open, and I hope that this will be addressed in due course.


James said...

It appears that the theme of the day is the availability of the public record.

What does the 2002 Act of the States have to say about this, I wonder?

TonyTheProf said...

Interesting - what other news is there and where can I find it on this?

Tom Gruchy said...

Yes - the usual one step forward and two steps back.
Somebody should ask who is actually editing this stuff and by what authority?
Presumably the Judicial Greffier's hand is guided here by some authority or other but there should be scope to ask questions in the States.
In case none of the 53 come forward - is anybody else volunteering to research this further?

Anonymous said...

I just read the Sumption QC summing up on the Farce Blog. Its good this stuff is available to the public.