National Archives Obtains 47,366 Court Judgments Ready for Spring 2022 Repository Launch

Recently, the Law Society Gazette revealed that 47,366 court judgments will be uploaded to the National Archives’ new comprehensive online repository when the free-to-use service goes live in April 2022.[1]

This 1st phase of rolling-out judgments will be made up of decisions of the Senior Courts handed down since 2003, which have been forwarded on by the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII), in the form of rich-text and PDF documents and are presumed to be protected by Crown copyright ‘with a high degree of confidence’.

They will also be marked up using an international standard form of encoding data (‘Legal Document Mark-up Language’), which is readable by computer and will therefore be of particular interest to developers of artificial-intelligence-based legal support tools, researchers and academic lawyers.

According to the Digital Director at the National Archives, John Sheridan, there is ‘no doubt’ that the spring deadline, which coincides with the end of the Government’s contract with BAILII, will be met.

In fact, the National Archives has already begun inviting publishers to donate important historical judgments, in order to meet the aims of the ‘trickier’ 2nd phase of the project. It is understood that acquiring these public records ‘for the nation’ will incur costs, so a process that demonstrates good value for public money will be run to reimburse assisting 3rd parties.

Mr. Sheridan remarked that he has ‘no idea’ how big the archive will eventually be, but he assures that ‘April will be by no means the end, rather the beginning [for the repository].

As to whether judgments from junior courts and tribunals should be added to the service in due course – a service currently not provided by BAILII – this will be a matter for the judiciary and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to decide.

 

[1] Michael Cross, ‘Official judgment portal set to go live’ (29 November 2021 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/official-judgment-portal-set-to-go-live/5110741.article> accessed 30 November 2021.