Open Justice Initiative: MP raises lack of trial transcript access in Commons debate

Lucy Powell MP has raised in the House of Commons the issue of the lack of access to trial transcripts, which currently inhibits miscarriage of justice enquiries.

Powell asked Justice Secretary David Lidington to "look at making the courts more transparent" and "particularly allowing defendants and those that have been sentenced to get transcripts and copies of the judge's direction to the jury".

Powell told the Commons "in potential miscarriage of justice cases this can be incredibly difficult to get".

All Crown Court proceedings in England and Wales are digitally audio recorded, however accessing these recordings often proves difficult. At present, obtaining trial transcripts can be prohibitively expensive, running in tens of thousands of pounds which legal aid is unlikely to cover the cost of. Moreover, current retention policies mean that the digital audio recordings on which transcripts are based are destroyed after just 7 years. 

This hampers investigations into potential miscarriages of justice as without a full transcript, it is not possible to work out exactly what happened at a trial - including what precisely witnesses said and whether the trial was fair.

More freely available transcript access was one of the reforms called for by the Centre for Criminal Appeals in the Open Justice Charter, which it developed in conjunction with academics and journalists.

Lidington said he would be providing a written response to Powell's question.