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Clause 30 - Places, dates and times of sittings

Part of Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 1st July 2003.

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Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson Vice-Chair, Conservative Party 3:15 pm, 1st July 2003

I rise to speak on clause stand part, because I am not sure whether I shall have a further opportunity to make these points. They are directly connected with the question of places, dates and times of sittings. I speak in favour of a particular group that I believe should have access to courts—''persons resident'' in the local area, to whom reference is made in subsection (2). I am talking about members of the press, a group with which I have some familiarity in my capacity as a columnist on the Henley Standard, a post for which I receive no payment whatsoever.

It is a shame that amendment No. 46 was not selected for debate, because it perfectly expresses how the clause should be drawn up. It would be worrying if members of the press did not have ready access to the courts. The Minister may be unfamiliar with the Henley Standard's open justice campaign, but I can fill him in.

There are two problems. First, as we discussed earlier, the Henley court was closed, followed by the Thame court. Secondly, once everything is moved to Oxford, no lists will be sent to groups of residents in the ''local justice area'', including newspaper journalists, of what cases are to be heard. It will therefore be impossible for newspapers to provide the vital service of telling the local community who is being tried and for what. They will not be able to play their part in the administering of justice by providing the vital utensil of public shame. It is an important part of local justice that cases should be reported in local newspapers.

Without wishing to try your patience, Mr. O'Brien, I ask for an assurance that the Government will

include newspapers in their thinking about who should have access to the courts in the local justice area. Not only should they have access to the courts but they should know what cases are coming up and should be able to report them freely. I think that the Minister will agree that that is an important part of administering justice locally.