Basic Failure of Open Justice at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court


Monday, August 12th, 2019. 2:35pm

Photo of the exterior of Cambridge Magistrates' Court from https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/courts/cambridge-magistrates-courtOn Monday the 12th of August 2019 I attended Cambridge Magistrates’ court to observe proceedings, with a view to reporting on them if anything newsworthy took place.

I was not able to obtain information which I understand I was entitled to and which I felt I needed both to decide which cases to observe and to ensure any reports were full and accurate.

The information I was not able to obtain is that generally described as the “full” court list (as opposed to the “noticeboard” list).

My understanding is the full list contains information on defendants such as their ages / dates of birth and addresses – which enable reports to unambiguously identify individuals in question and avoid defaming someone else with the same name. The full list in my experience also includes details of alleged offences, this enables reporting accurately on allegations and making decisions on which cases to observe.

I was able to speak to a court clerk who stated they were not surprised that I had not been provided with a copy of the court list. They suggested that the information requested would only be provided if a decision to release it was made, and that decision would depend on my providing my identity and who I am. I cited the law, Rule 5.8 of the Criminal Procedure Rules and stated my understanding that in the case of, for example, details of “each alleged offence and any plea entered” should be provided to the public on request, and the provision of such information ought not be subject to a decision being taken as to if to release it, or not, in response to a request.

Without easy access to the full court list our courts are not in my view effectively operating in public. The doors being technically open for anyone to walk in don’t provide for public justice if its not possible to find out information on cases which are scheduled, so people can choose which cases they are interested in observing, or find out if, and when, a case they want to observe is due to be heard.

I think we need an effective, public, open, local justice system in order to tackle many of our society’s problems. Deterrence, and justice, is enhanced by the public operation of our courts. Tackling this problem and getting our courts operating openly is in my view key to making our society safer and fairer.

Full Details of What Happened

Over a number of weeks I considered attending my local magistates’ court to observe, and report on, a case which had been mentioned in the local press. I thought carefully about if it was something I was prepared to do, and how I would approach attending and reporting.

I sought to do all I could to ensure my attendance went smoothly.

I decided to take nothing with me other than a folder containing a blank notebook, and paper, a copy of Rule 5.8 of the Criminal Procedure Rules, some cash, my keys, and a packet of tissues. I didn’t want to take journalistic notes in case they were searched, I didn’t want to take electronic devices such as a phone in-case I was accused of breaching a rule by having them, or having them be held by security.

I also decided to wear a suit. I am aware that some people often make decisions based on appearance and it appears to me that the justice system is a part of a society which is disjointed from wider society and perhaps still judges people based on what they look like – something I think wider civilised society is moving away from. I thought the establishment might react more pleasantly to, or be less panicked by the presence of, someone who was dressed like them.

The court building opened at 9am. I was outside at 0910, I thought that would be a good time to go in. Early, promptly, but not right on the dot of the opening time. My expectation at the time was I’d go in, find out when cases I was interested in were scheduled for, and come back out before returning, later to observe them.

I approached the court building, entered and went through the security procedure. I placed my keys and folder in a tray, and walked through an arch. I was asked to stand with my arms up as I was scanned with a probe, presumably a metal detector. I then picked up my items. I was asked for my name by the security staff. I said only that I was a member of the public and they let me though.

I suspect the security staff were asking for people’s names to be helpful and to direct them to the right court but it would be best if they explained the purpose of their question and informed people if they had to answer it.

I climbed the stairs to the courts which are on the third floor of the building. The stairway is narrow and foreboding. I am not claustrophobic but it felt like an enclosed and unsafe place, rather like some staircases at multi-story car parks. There appeared to be only be one way in and out of the labyrinthine complex for the public though green emergency exit signs indicate the presence of other routes which would presumably, hopefully, become accessible to all in an emergency.

On the level containing the court rooms there was a noticeboard, there were A4 lists posted under “Court 1 and Court 3″. These lists contained only a time, the defendants name, an unlabelled column perhaps showing who was prosecuting (generally the police), and a case number.

I found that a case I was interested observing was listed as the second case in court number 3, with three cases all listed for 10am being listed for that court.

Someone approached the list for court one and crossed out a line on the list for court one as I was watching.

At this point it was 0920. There were “court in session” lights on outside courts one and three, but there didn’t appear to be anyone inside.

I decided to wait with a view to asking an usher for a copy of the full court listing.

I noted a sign stating: “Use of mobile phones is prohibited in all hearing rooms. CT1 October 2018″.

I overheard a security officer advise someone else that the ushers would start work in “about a quarter of an hour”, that would be somewhere around 0940. There was a sign on the noticeboard containing the so called “noticeboard lists” that ushers are available from 0930.

I read some of the other signs which included: “Hot drinks may not be brought into the court room or hearing room”, “Food many not be consumed in the court room or hearing room”, “CCTV images are recorded” and “it is an offence to take photographs, record video clips or make unauthorised audio recordings anyway in the hearing centre … if you are found to be in breach of this the matter will be referred to a judge and may result in legal action”.

The security officer advised another member of the public apparently present to observe that ushers would come into court at 0945 and at that point they could go in, and turn to the right, to go into the public gallery. The security guard [perhaps being asked if cases from over the weekend were being dealt with] also said: “we don’t open on a Saturday so anything that does [need to be dealt with on Saturday] goes to Huntington”.

I sat and waited and finalised my plan to first ask for a copy of the full court list, and then if that wasn’t successful, to seek a copy of “each alleged offence and any plea entered” for each case due before the court I was intending to observe – court 3.

An usher eventually entered the court and came in and out a few times. While the usher was standing outside the court, and I was sitting in the waiting area outside I asked if I could have a copy of the full court list. The initial answer was: ~”No. We don’t print it off. I need to get everyone booked in”. I was then asked who I was, to which I responded just that I was a member of the public.

The usher was wearing a black gown (which is how I recognised them as an usher), they were wearing a badge with no name on it. I asked who they were and I was told merely: “Julie”.

A fellow member of the public who had overheard my request asked if I was seeking a ~”a full list showing what was going on”, I said “yes”, I was.. and they noted “that would be useful”, I said: “we should get it, I might get a copy shortly”.

I waited outside as various people walked in and out of the court, apparently members of the public, defendants, lawyers, court staff etc.

I decided to wait outside until just before the court session was due to start.

The usher returned to me sitting outside and said: “I’ve consulted our head legal advisor”. “It’s all confidential I don’t know if I can…”. “It’s all digital now, we don’t print it out”.

At this point I had only asked for a copy of the full court list.

I now rephrased my request to ask for specific information. I asked if I could have:

“details of each alleged offence and any plea entered, for court three here this morning”.

Apparently reading from their paper copy of the full court list the usher noted the information published on the noticeboard list (the defendant’s names) then very briefly stated:

  1. An Assault
  2. Possession of a controlled drug
  3. Fraud

I asked if I could have any further details of the alleged offences and was told no.

I suspect there was further information to which I was entitled.

I asked for details of the pleas entered and was told “they’re trials, they’re all ‘not guilty’”.

(It would be possible for there to be trials if someone had pleaded not-guilty to some, but not all offences they were alleged to have committed).

I sat down again and waited. I decided to ask to make a request for the full court listing information to the clerk at the start of case 2. I thought case 2 would be of significant local interest and there would be a lot of observers and reporters present, so making it feel safer and more comfortable to make a request where I wasn’t the only “outsider” in in the room.

I entered the court pretty much exactly at 10am. The usher was telling the clerk if witnesses were present or not for the case listed as case 1. A defence solicitor asked the clerk and usher about their views on his fitness regime and the if running around the city with heavy bags and up the stairs was sufficient aerobic exercise. They looked oddly at him and ignored him.

My one fellow member of the public in the public seating asked if I had obtained a copy of the court list. I said: “no”.

I sat and drafted what I wanted to say to the clerk, I planned to ask for information on “each alleged offence and any plea entered”, and to note I had requested the information from the usher but had not received what I expected. I thought if I was making a request I would also request other information to which I was entitled including the identity of the prosecution and defence reps and the identities of the judge/magistrates so planned to ask for that too.

As I sat and waited the prosecutor answered a phone call in the court/hearing room and wasn’t challenged – though he did promptly leave presumably to carry on a conversation elsewhere.

There were around 14 seats in the public gallery (an area at the back of the room, at the same level as the floor of the court). The seats were in two rows, I took the seat nearest the door on the front row. I later found out this was near to, and in-front of, the ushers’ seat.

The magistrates came in a 10:05. A ~”court rise” order was given and I stood up. (Apparently not doing so risks a spell in the cells for contempt!) In this case I was happy to stand to show respect to our system of justice and the office of magistrate. (I have previously been in a court room which had been kept waiting for a very long time for magistrates to return after their lunch break and I certainly felt, and could sense others feeling, less deferential when asking to stand on that occasion).

Case two was called. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, but I had heard discussion about a slight delay in case one so it wasn’t entirely unexpected.

After the case had been called but before it began I asked if I could make a representation to the clerk. The usher sighed but did appear to rely my request to the clerk who appeared to ignore it. I was intending to request the basic court listing information, and other information I was entitled to as I had planned.

I will write a separate report on the substance of the case 2.

Case 2 was rapidly dispatched in under ten minutes, including a few minutes of deliberation, in-court, by the magistrates.

After the case was over I quietly and politely asked the usher for the names of the magistrates.

The usher again sighed, more dramatically this time, and pointed at me (I’ve experienced being pointed at in this way by public officials before, I don’t understand the behaviour, in retrospect in this case it may have been to indicate “I will return to you here with the information you have requested”). The usher didn’t respond verbally in any way to my request straight away but walked off and dealt with other matters. I decided to wait for ten minutes to see if the usher came back with the names.

Proceedings in another case then took place briefly. I won’t say anything more because what can be reported about a case before it reaches trial is strictly limited.

After just a few minutes the magistrates retired and I was left sitting in the court room with just the other member of the public and the clerk, and someone coming in-and out to a desk towards the back – I suspected they were probation service rep.

I decided at that point I would not seek to speak to the clerk directly, but to only go via the usher.

The usher returned and gave me the names of the magistrates orally and very quickly, they were, phonetically:

  • Sarah Vallance-Good
  • Jacob Power
  • Kim Clegg

I repeated them to seek confirmation that the information had been correctly transmitted but the usher walked off and offered no confirmation.

In retrospect when I was home later I wondered if I could have requested a “reasonable adjustment” under the Equalities Act as even though I don’t think I have any particular problem receiving information orally generally the manner in which it was delivered was at the edge of what I was capable of dealing with.

At this point the clerk spoke up. The clerk, was in court, “holding court”, but without magistrates or a judge present. The clerk addressed me and said “Who are you?”. I said: “I am a member of the public observing the court today”. The clerk announced: “I am surprised you got the names of the magistrates if you are not a member of the press”.

I stayed silent for a few moments, in the silent court considering what, if anything to do next.

I asked the clerk if I could speak to him, he said yes. I relayed my attempt to get a copy of the full list that morning and told him what had happened. The clerk stated that he wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t provided with the full list. I explained that I understood I was entitled to the information I had asked for under the criminal procedure rules. The clerk responded: “which rule?”. “5.8” I replied. Consulting a copy of the rules and adding “5.8(6)(b) and (f) for example”. The clerk said he thought a decision would need to be made on if to release information or not, and that decision would depend on who I was. I responded to say that wasn’t my understanding and that I thought the information I requested should be available to anyone on who asked for it. The clerk expressed a view that as the cases were being heard in open court that brought sufficient openness.

I asked the clerk for his name, he said he was Jeremy Moss, and he added “I have done this for a very long time”.

Mr Moss added that I was clearly “doing something” and he noted aloud that I was “writing things down”.

I thanked the clerk and said I would pursue the matter elsewhere.

After a period contemplating if I could do any other useful reporting without the court list I left the courtroom shortly afterwards.

I’ve now written up what happened and I intend to share my experience and seek comments. I then plan to seek to draw what happened to the attention of the CEO of the courts service (who has engaged with me previously on matters of openness in our courts via the @CEOofHMCTS) and to my MP.

I have only ever once before in my life ever raised a formal complaint about anything (that related to the way a Parliamentary committee published evidence I had submitted in a garbled format). I am though considering that if others agree with my interpretation of the criminal procedure rules and that I should have been given access to the information I requested I may make a complaint in this case, or at least in some way pursue a response.

I really think open justice is critical for a fair society and I think it has a role in preventing crime and making our society safer. I think action on this point could save lives and prevent huge amounts of upset and distress.

I have been intending for some time to make a Freedom of Information request asking for information on the arrangements in-place for distributing copies of the full court lists for hearings at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court. I would have preferred if I had been able to do this in advance of attending to observe a case but a case I was interested in came up. I may make such a request an link to it in the comments.

Police, Crime [Fire] and Justice Commissioners

I would like to see Police and Crime Commissioners become Police, Crime, and Justice Commissioners and take an interest in wider criminal justice strategy. I am aware there is a good argument against this based on concern about maintaining independence of the judicial and policing systems but I don’t think that would be put at risk by having a local elected representative representing the public to the judiciary and the courts service. Just as with their policing role I wouldn’t expect commissioners to get involved in operational matters or individual cases but they could take local decisions as they do in policing on on strategic policy matters, communications and estates.
(I don’t actually support Police and Crime Commissioners, I’d rather their role be taken-on by a committee of councillors. Such a committee could take a broad view of the criminal justice system.)

See Also

10 comments/updates on “Basic Failure of Open Justice at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court

  1. John Brace

    I too have had problems getting the listings from my local Magistrates Court (Wirral).

    I went to the offices and asked the staff – manager had told that this information wouldn’t be released. I was told I would only get it if I came in for an appointment to be vetted as a journalist.

    But here is a link to the guide for HMCTS staff on the media and courts register and lists.

    In summary though it had to be provided free of charge, made available to the media on request and contain the defendant’s name, age, alleged offence and address.

    There’s more about sharing with local newspapers here, but it does state in that “take steps to satisfy themselves that they are providing information to a genuine journalist or agent. (Paper copies must be collected in person by a representative from the newspaper who must produce ID such as a UK Press Card Authority or a letter from the editor authorising collection”

    So in other words if you don’t have a press card you need a letter from your editor.

    I hope the above is helpful and yes HMCTS staff do go a bit overboard sometimes with the information.

    On the plus side – the Crown Court listings are available through Courtserve which saves all this bother!

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    It appears that the magistrates and prosecutors names may have been provided to another reporter in court

    https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/raymond-brown-cambridge-news-court-16741739

    It may be that the reporter made a request by email and got a better response than I did with an oral request to the usher. The usher didn’t suggest I make a request by email.

    If I do make a complaint I will suggest how others’ requests for the same, or similar, information was dealt with.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have recalled that when the usher returned to me as I was sitting outside the court and told me

    “I’ve consulted our head legal advisor”. “It’s all confidential I don’t know if I can…”. “It’s all digital now, we don’t print it out”.

    there was another usher standing nearby.

    I didn’t realise that might be relevant, they appeared to perhaps be waiting to talk to the usher. In retrospect it struck me a couple of days later that this second usher might have been dispatched to observe the interaction.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have carefully considered if I should pursue what happened via a complaint.

    A number of people, including some with relevant expertise, have now read my account and none have told me my interpretation is wrong – and people are generally quick to speak up if something is wrong.

    Access to court listing information is fundamental to openness in our court system, and openness in our court system is a vital pillar of our justice system and indeed our society. This is a very important subject.

    I have drafted the following complaint for comment:

    I’m writing to complain about the responses I received when requesting information I believe I was entitled to under Rule 5.8 of the Criminal Procedure Rules at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court on the 12th of August 2019.

    At around 0940, shortly after ushers had come on duty prior to a 10am court start time, I asked an usher outside court 3 for a copy of the full court list.

    The initial response from the usher to that request was:

    “No. We don’t print it off. I need to get everyone booked in.”

    a few minutes later the usher returned to me outside the court and said:

    “I’ve consulted our head legal advisor”. “It’s all confidential I don’t know if I can…”. “It’s all digital now, we don’t print it out”.

    The usher in question was the usher working in court 3 that morning and they identified themselves as “Julie”.

    I then rephrased my request and asked the usher for:

    “details of each alleged offence and any plea entered, for court three here this morning”.

    apparently reading from their paper copy of the full court list the usher noted the information published on the noticeboard list and very briefly stated:

    1. An Assault
    2. Possession of a controlled drug
    3. Fraud

    I asked if I could have any further details of the alleged offences and was told no.

    I believe I was entitled, under the The Criminal Procedure Rules 2015, rule 5.8 (6) (b) to more than merely, in one case, a one word description of “each alleged offence”. I expected the information which I understand is on the full court list including, for example, the name and address of the defendant, the date of the alleged offence, the circumstances of the allegation and the law the behaviour was allegedly contrary to.

    I asked for details of the pleas entered and was told “they’re trials, they’re all ‘not guilty’”.

    Given the possibility a trial in the event of a defendant pleading not-guilty to some, but not all, allegations I did not feel this was an adequate response.

    At 10:05 after a defendant had been led into court, but before proceedings began, I asked the usher if I could make an application. This usher appeared to relay my request to the clerk, and my request appeared to be ignored by the clerk.

    I could have wished to make an application on any number of matters which should have been dealt with there and then. As it happens my intent was to ask the clerk for information relating to the case which I understood I was entitled to under The Criminal Procedure Rules 2015, rule 5.8, during which I would have noted the fact my request to the clerk had not been as fruitful as I would have hoped, to explain the manner in which I was making my request.

    After the case had been dealt with, while the court was adjourned, I asked the usher for the names of the magistrates, as I was entitled to receive under The Criminal Procedure Rules 2015, rule 5.8(6)(f)(iv). The usher sighed dramatically, pointed at me, and walked off without verbally acknowledging my request. The usher approached me a few minutes later and and gave me the names of the magistrates orally and very quickly. I repeated them to seek confirmation that the information had been correctly transmitted but the usher walked off and offered no confirmation.

    I feel the names of the magistrates would have been better provided in writing, or time should have been taken to enable me to confirm the names, including their spelling, I should not have merely been given the information orally, once, in a brusque manner.

    At this point the clerk spoke up. The clerk addressed me and said “Who are you?”. I said: “I am a member of the public observing the court today”. The clerk announced: “I am surprised you got the names of the magistrates if you are not a member of the press”.

    I am disappointed in this statement given my understanding that the names magistrates who have made a decision at a hearing in public should be given, on request, to anyone who asks for them.

    I asked the clerk if I could speak to him, he said yes. I relayed my attempt to get a copy of the full list that morning and told him what had happened. The clerk stated that he wasn’t surprised that I wasn’t provided with the full list. I explained that I understood I was entitled to the information I had asked for under the criminal procedure rules. The clerk responded: “which rule?”. “5.8” I replied. Consulting a copy of the rules I added “5.8(6)(b) and (f) for example”. The clerk said he thought a decision would need to be made on if to release information or not, and that decision would depend on who I was. I responded to say that wasn’t my understanding and that I thought the information I requested should be available to anyone on who asked for it. The clerk expressed a view that as the cases were being heard in open court that brought sufficient openness.

    I am concerned the clerk’s statements could mislead ushers and other court staff as to what is expected of them under the law.

    I asked the clerk for his name, he said he was Jeremy Moss, and he added “I have done this for a very long time”.

    Mr Moss added that I was clearly “doing something” and he noted aloud that I was “writing things down”.

    I do not think court staff should imply any criticism of those who write things down in a court room, or in a court building.

    I thanked the clerk and said I would pursue the matter elsewhere, which is what I am now doing via this complaint.

    I have raised this complaint as appropriate transparency in the justice system is in my view fundamental to the proper operation of the court system.

    I would like this complaint to result in consideration, in particular, of:

    1. If my requests for information were appropriately handled.
    2. If my request to make an application in the court room was appropriately handled.
    3. If the attitude and approach of the usher was appropriate.
    4. How any requests by others for some of the same information as I was seeking on the day were handled and if, and why, my requests were dealt with differently from others’.

    The outcomes from my complaint which I would like to see include:

    1. Apologies and explanations from the courts service, and the individual members of staff involved.
    2. The provision to me of the information I was seeking.
    3. Details of steps taken to seek to ensure similar occurrences do not happen again either in Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, or elsewhere within the UK court and tribunal system.
    4. Advice to me, and others, on how to obtain information we are entitled to from the courts in the most efficient, effective manner, causing least upset and disruption for all involved.
    5. For relevant staff, magistrates, and judges to be made aware of this complaint and its resolution.

  5. Magistrates’ Blog

    Thank you for giving such a complete account of your recent visit to Cambridge Magistrates’ Court.

    It has always been a bit of a bugbear of mine how some interested members of the public are viewed with suspicion by a minority of court staff. We should be encouraging members of the public to visit our courts and take a keener interest in the provision of local justice.

    It is perfectly acceptable for anyone to sit at the back of open court and take a note of proceedings. They should only be challenged if it is obvious they are up to no good – for example, taking notes to help witnesses about to give evidence at trial. I always think it is safer for any member of the public who wishes to take notes to mention it to the usher, so there is no possibility of confusion or embarrassment later on. Of course any reporting restriction must be strictly adhered to.

    The HMCTS legal staff will obviously know and understand the rules about providing full court lists to members of the public. Bona fide journalists are entitled to view these in advance of the relevant hearing, which allows them to cherry pick cases of particular interest.

    Providing the full lists to members of the public could be problematic because they do sometimes contain sensitive information – e.g. the names of victims in domestic/sexual assault cases.

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    >The HMCTS legal staff will obviously know and understand the rules about providing full court lists to members of the public. Bona fide journalists are entitled to view these in advance of the relevant hearing, which allows them to cherry pick cases of particular interest.

    My understanding is it is only in respect of access to family courts that our courts system seeks to regulate which journalists can effectively report on proceedings. The law on access to information about upcoming cases enables anyone to access information about upcoming cases. The state should not operate a system where only its selected and favoured journalists can report effectively on what happens in court.

    >Providing the full lists to members of the public could be problematic because they do sometimes contain sensitive information – e.g. the names of victims in domestic/sexual assault cases.
    That information is available to those who are observing in court and there are laws preventing its publication. Court lists should be provided to people with notes on any reporting restrictions – either general reporting restrictions which apply – or those which have been ordered in relation to a specific case. It is up to individuals what they do with the information received and they can be held to account if they there is an allegation they have breached the law with subsequent actions.

    I would like to see court lists, appropriately redacted for publication, made available to all online.

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    >The HMCTS legal staff will obviously know and understand the rules about providing full court lists
    I don’t share that confidence, and I think my experience shows that at least in Cambridge Magistrates’ Court staff are not aware of the public’s rights to information.

  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    I have received a number of comments on my proposed complaint.

    One criticism is that it is not concise and specific. This is a fair and reasonable point and I have considered complaining only about the most concerning particular element, for example that when I requested details of the alleged offence for case 3 in court 3 that morning the response I got was the one word “fraud” when I expected to be provided with the full details of the alleged offence as I would have expected them to appear on the full court list.

    I have decided not to limit my complaint in this way for a number of reasons. One is that I may be accused of omitting relevant context from my complaint, so I think it is best to present the entirety of what happened, another is I was seriously concerned about the attitude of the usher and the clerk’s comments so I think it is reasonable to include those in my complaint too.

    Another question raised is if this experience is the best one to raise a complaint in relation to, and if I should, for example, make a request in writing for a court listing information for a particular day and complain if it is refused. I have made such a request previously, and it was rejected. In that case I complained to the Information Commissioner on the grounds the material should have been released under the Freedom of Information Act. I think the ruling was wrong but was not prepared to expose myself to the risks of a costs award against me by appealing it to a tribunal.

    In this case I have clear notes of what happened, and I was able to raise my concerns with a clerk so I think this is a case where I did everything I could to do the right thing, and I have good notes supporting my experience so I think it is a good case to base a complaint on.

    Lastly I have considered if to add a line to my complaint asking when we can expect Cambridge Magistrates Court, and our courts more generally to openly publish informative but appropriately redacted court lists and registers online so we can have a truly open and transparent justice system. I think this would be a relevant opportunity to seek an update on progress towards this.

    I am intending separately to make a Freedom of Information request to find out about the current arrangements for proactively releasing court listing and court register information relating to cases at Cambridge Magistrate’s court, including a list of bodies to which information is routinely sent and the selection criteria, if any, used to determine which case information they are sent. I am currently considering dealing with the complaint first, and then pursuing the FOI route for more information on current policy and practice that way.

  9. Richard Taylor Article author

    The courts service’s online complaints system asks: “How were you affected?”.

    I took some text from my original article to write: “I was not able to obtain information which I understand I was entitled to and which I felt I needed both to decide which cases to observe and to ensure any reports were full and accurate.

    My understanding is the full list, which I requested but was not provided with, contains information on defendants such as their ages / dates of birth and addresses – which enable reports to unambiguously identify individuals in question and avoid defaming someone else with the same name. The full list in my experience also includes details of alleged offences which enables both reporting accurately on allegations and making decisions on which cases to observe.”

    I have also added the request for an update on progress towards proactive online publication of court lists and registers.

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      I decide not to use the “resolver” service as it insisted on an physical address, which appears unnecessary.

      I have submitted my complaint by email using the contact address provided on the Cambridge Magistrates’ Court page on the Government’s Court and tribunal finder website. I gave my email the subject line: “Complaint – Failure to Provide Information at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court”

      I received an immediate autoresponse stating:

      This is an automatically generated email acknowledging receipt of your email to cb-enquiries email box. We cover Peterborough, Cambridge & Huntingdon Magistrates Courts. This inbox is monitored Monday to Friday between 8:30-5pm (except Bank Holidays). To help us deal with your enquiry please do not duplicate your correspondence by post or DX (we no longer receive fax enquiries) as this will cause further delays and wasted time in dealing with your enquiry. We aim to deal with your enquiry within 5 working days. Thank you Cambridgeshire Magistrates Courts
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