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PE01455: Public access to court records


Petitioner: James Macfarlane


Date Lodged: 15 October 2012

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to consider the need for new legislation to create a free of charge public right of access to information generated in relation to court proceedings, including all documents which have been read in open court, whether aloud or not, and to proactively publish this information online.

Petition History:

Petition Annexes:



27 November 2012: The Committee agreed to write to the Scottish Government, the Scottish Court Service, the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Law Society of Scotland and Victim Support Scotland. Link to Official Report 27 November 2012 (438KB pdf)

5 February 2013: The Committee agreed to await the response from the Law Society of Scotland. Link to Official Report 5 February 2013 (374KB pdf)

15 March 2013: The Committee agreed to close the petition under Rule 15.7 on the grounds that what the petition seeks is broadly considered impracticable. Link to Official Report 15 March 2013 (438KB pdf)

Written Submissions

This petition seeks to create a public right of access to any document produced before a court (in the course of any proceedings, either criminal or civil).

The 'open justice' principle entitles any member of the public to watch court proceedings; however, it isn't easy for members of the public to follow a case - they will have to attend court on numerous days and may have to take time off from work. If this is the case, then the justice system isn't really 'open' at all.

I propose that all court documents are published online for all to see. If a party wants information to remain confidential - and it wouldn't ordinarily be read out in open court - then the sheriff / judge/ JP can withhold it from disclosure.

In principle why are we in Scotland denied the right to access any information unless we incur the additional cost of having to employ a Lawyer to access any records that are, or should be available to the public. I'm taken aback that this information is available in England & Wales yet we in Scotland are denied similar rights.


10:18 on 14 Oct 2012

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