Michael Gove is being called upon to stop the ‘reckless and irresponsible’ practice of automatically destroying the records of Crown Court trials.
In an open letter published today on the Justice Gap – see below – leading justice campaigners including Michael Mansfield QC, Paddy Hill, a former deputy head of Hampshire CID, an ex Criminal Cases Review Commissioner, plus academics from 13 universities are calling for an urgent end to the current disposal rules. They argue the records, now stored digitally, should be available indefinitely.
Every hearing in the crown court must be recorded in full. Audio tape recordings of those hearings are destroyed after five years, and digital recordings are deleted after seven years under MoJ guidelines (known as the Crown Court Record Retention and Disposition Schedule). This policy applies to the judge’s summing up which is widely considered essential for any chance of an appeal. Parties can apply to the court where the hearing was held to listen to recordings but copies are not available. The guidelines were drafted in 1972 and last reviewed in 2011 when proceedings began to be recorded digitally.
You can read more on the Justice Gap here
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award