The First Annual BAILII Lecture was given on 20 November by Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. The event was hosted by the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP at their premises in Fleet Street , London.
BAILII stands for the British and Irish Legal Information Institute, which makes English jurisprudence and statutes available for free via the Internet. It is the equivalent of CanLII.
Entitled No judgment, no justice, the lecture focused on the importance of clearly written judgments and their wide dissemination:
- Access to Judgments carries with it access to law and access to justice, for lawyers, judges, academics and litigants, and all others interested in or concerned with any aspect of the law. BAILII, which also gives access to statutes, provides a unique and constitutionally vital service for UK citizens and others, which as the number of self-represented litigants, as litigants-in-person are now known, inevitably increases, will become even more important.
- Judgments are the means through which the judges address the litigants and the public at large, and explain their reasons for reaching their conclusions. Judges are required to exercise judgement - and it is clear that without such judgement we would not have a justice system worthy of the name – and they give their individual judgement expression through their Judgments. Without judgement there would be no justice. And without Judgments there would be no justice, because decisions without reasons are certainly not justice: indeed, they are scarcely decisions at all. It is therefore an absolute necessity that Judgments are readily accessible. Such accessibility is part and parcel of what it means for us to ensure that justice is seen to be done, to borrow from Lord Hewart CJ’s famous phrase.
- With that in mind, I want to focus on the importance of two fundamental requirements of any justice system worthy of the name, and the role they play in securing effective access to justice. Those requirements are (i) judges giving publicly available, reasoned Judgments and (ii) the reliable dissemination and reporting of Judgments. I propose to start by looking at the importance of Judgments themselves, after which I will discuss the nature and importance of disseminating and reporting.