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Judges 'must ensure open courts'

Judges must make every effort to ensure that courts are open and accessible , the UK's most senior judge has said .

Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, told lawyers that the public had to be able to engage with the "judicial process" in a meaningful and, if necessary, critical way.

He said "us judges" would "soon fall into bad ways" if they could not be "seen at work" - whatever "downsides" there may be.

The judge made his comments in a lecture to lawyers in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

"It is a fundamental principle of the rule of law that justice is done in public," said Lord Neuberger.

"This carries with it the requirement that both what goes on in court and what that court decides should be open to public scrutiny.

"And this means more than merely having court proceedings that are open to the public and issuing public judgments.

"A real commitment to open justice requires that the courts and the judiciary make every effort, short of undermining the paramount objective of the legal system - to ensure that justice is done - to establish not just openness but accessibility.

"The openness must enable the public to engage with the judicial process in a meaningful and, if necessary, critical way.

"It is also vital as a means of holding us judges to account.

"However well-intentioned and upright we are, we will soon fall into bad ways, sometimes for the best of motives, if we cannot be seen at work by all our citizens and by our media, whatever downsides this sometimes carries with it."

He compared the workings of the Supreme Court - which was created nearly five years ago and is the highest court in the UK - to its predecessor, the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.

"One of the most welcome developments to accompany the creation of the United Kingdom Supreme Court was the ability to make its proceedings 'open to the public' in more than just name," he said.

"Proceedings in the House of Lords took place tucked away in a room in that grand but labyrinthine building the location of which would have tested the most determined member of the public.

"By contrast, the UK Supreme Court puts a premium on public accessibility, and welcomed its 250,000th visitor last year - and currently we are receiving around 80,000 visitors per annum.

"Technology also provides a new means to reach a wider public audience, and our proceedings are streamed live online. Summaries of every one of our judgments are read out and televised, and fuller printed summaries are available for anyone who wants them. We even tweet information and links to our judgments."


From Belfast Telegraph