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Open Justice

What is Open Justice ?

Open justice is a fundamental principle of the United Kingdom’s legal system.

It means that Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. This principle ensures that the public can have confidence in the fairness and transparency of the legal system.

It requires that court proceedings are held in public, and that the media and the public are allowed to attend trials and access court documents. This transparency is vital to ensuring that the justice system is accountable, and that the public can trust that it is being conducted fairly.

The principle of open justice is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a fair trial.

The UK government has also enacted legislation, such as the Contempt of Court Act 1981, to ensure that the principle of open justice is upheld.

Open justice serves several important purposes

Firstly, it ensures that justice is seen to be done. This is important because the public must have confidence in the justice system. If court proceedings were held behind closed doors, it would be difficult for the public to know whether justice was being served. The transparency of open justice allows the public to see that the court is conducting proceedings fairly, and that justice is being done.

Secondly, open justice promotes accountability. The media and the public can attend court proceedings, and they can report on what happens in court. This means that the legal system is subject to public scrutiny, and that any problems or injustices are likely to be exposed. This is important because it helps to prevent abuses of power, and ensures that the justice system is accountable to the public.

Open justice helps to promote the rule of law. When the legal system is transparent and accountable, people are more likely to obey the law. This is because they have confidence that the legal system is fair, and that justice will be served if they are accused of a crime. This also helps to ensure that society is orderly and peaceful.

Notable Cases

There have been several notable cases in which the principle of open justice has been violated. One such case is that of the Birmingham Six. In 1974, six men were wrongly convicted of carrying out bombings in Birmingham, England. They were only released in 1991, after it was revealed that the police had fabricated evidence against them.

The case was a major miscarriage of justice, and it highlighted the importance of open justice.

Another notable case where justice was not open was the trial of the Guildford Four, who were wrongly convicted of bombings in Guildford, Surrey, in 1974. The trial of the Guildford Four was held in camera, and the defendants were not allowed to have legal representation.

The trial was held in secret because the judge was concerned that the defendants might be targeted by terrorists if their identities were made public.

However, the decision to hold the trial in secret was widely criticised, and the Guildford Four were eventually cleared of all charges in 1989.

The importance of open justice was also highlighted in the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 football fans were killed in a crush at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield in 1989.

The initial inquest into the disaster was heavily criticised for its lack of transparency and accountability. The families of the victims were denied access to evidence and were not allowed to question witnesses.

The inquest was widely seen as a cover-up, and it was eventually quashed in 2016, paving the way for a new inquest that was held in a much more open and transparent manner.

Secret trials

In recent years, there have been concerns that the principle of open justice is being undermined. One issue is the increasing use of secret trials. These trials are held behind closed doors, and the evidence is not made public.

Secret trials are used in cases where national security is at stake, but critics argue that they are being used too frequently, and that they undermine the principle of open justice.

Reporting Restrictions

Another issue is the use of reporting restrictions, which prevent the media from reporting on certain aspects of a trial. Critics argue that these restrictions can be used to protect the powerful, and that they limit the public’s right to know.

Open Justice Conclusion

In conclusion, open justice is a fundamental principle of the UK’s legal system. It ensures that justice is seen to be done, promotes accountability, and helps to promote the rule of law.

It is important to ensure that the principle of open justice is upheld, and that the legal system remains transparent and accountable. This requires a commitment from the government, the judiciary, and the legal profession to ensure that court proceedings are held in public, that the media and the public are allowed to attend trials, and that court documents are accessible. It also requires a commitment to addressing any violations of the principle of open justice, such as the use of secret trials and reporting restrictions.

In recent years, there have been concerns that the principle of open justice is being undermined, and that the legal system is becoming less transparent and accountable. It is important to address these concerns, and to ensure that the principle of open justice remains a cornerstone of the UK’s legal system. This will help to ensure that justice is served fairly and transparently, and that the public has confidence in the legal system.

Open Justice around the world

Open justice is not just a UK principle, but a principle that is upheld in many countries around the world. It is a fundamental aspect of a democratic society, and one that is essential to upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of citizens.

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By Dom Watts

Dom Watts is the founder of the Ministry of Injustice. Dom has no legal training and is not a lawyer. You can find Dom on Twitter or Google.

"I suggest you continue your studies in English Law Mr Watts as you appear to know nothing" - DDJ Mills

“You know exactly what to do Mr Watts” - HHJ Farquhar

"I'm in the Rogues Gallery" - Gavin Howe Barrister

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