PRACTICE DIRECTION ON ACCESS TO AUDIO RECORDINGS OF PROCEEDINGS: WHY CAN'T THE PARTIES RECORD JUDGMENTS?

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The Lord Chief Justice has issued a Practice Direction on access to Audio Recordings of Proceedings.

CONTENTS

The Practice Direction clarifies the position in relation to the obtaining of, and listening to, recordings of proceedings.  It makes clear that there is no general right to to receive the recording.   Permission to obtain the recording will only be granted in limited circumstances – normally where there is a genuine dispute as to the accuracy of what has been transcribed.

WHY CAN’T THE PARTIES RECORD JUDGMENTS?

A different, but related, issue is the question of why, in the 21st century, the parties are not allowed the tape the judge when giving judgment.  There is a strong argument that tapes of the proceedings should not be generally available, however the judgment is a different matter.  At present the parties are expected to write down what the judge is saying, not matter what the speed of delivery. Something we have inherited from the 19th century (if not earlier).

Given that modern recording devices are not intrusive it would be a simple matters to allow litigants to tape the judgment. This is likely to result in a saving of judicial time and a saving in costs, since a party considering the judgment will not require a transcript. It will not put transcript writers out of business, since cases will still be reported or a transcript required for an appeal.

For the avoidance of doubt parties cannot record judgments at present (it would be a contempt of court). Given that there are cameras in the Court of Appeal and journalists can tweet from court it appears to be an anomaly that the parties have to rely on paper and pen to get an accurate record of the judgment.