Sunday People

Crime victims demand free court records

Some pay thousands in bid to get closure

- NICOLA SMALL Visit openjustic­eforall. com to support the campaign

EXCLUSIVE A WOMAN who tried to take her own life after a court cleared her ex-partner of coercive control is backing a campaign to open up the justice system.


Charlotte, 30, is supporting the Open Justice campaign, which is calling for a change in the law to make court records freely available.

She is just one of the serious crime complainan­ts too traumatise­d to attend full hearings being asked to pay for court transcript­s to understand judges’ decisions.

Crown courts can charge thousands of pounds for these and magistrate­s court sessions are not routinely recorded.

One rape victim was quoted £7,500 for a transcript of the full trial. It typically costs around £45 to £60 to provide a transcript of a judge’s sentencing remarks.

Charlotte, who asked that we not use her last name, was devastated after her ex-partner was cleared of coercive control in January. After giving evidence at a magistrate­s court, she was too upset to attend the rest of the hearing in person.

But she said: “If I had, I would have been sat in the public gallery next to my ex-partner’s sister.


“I wasn’t given the option of watching a video link in a side room so I have no idea what happened in the trial and why the district judge reached the verdict she did.”

Charlotte claims that all she has is a solicitor’s note saying the judge thought she was “unreliable” because it took her eight months to go to the police. She said: “My mental health has gone down the drain. The day I got the verdict, I tried to kill myself... I need to know what was said to get closure and move on.”

Charlotte, of Hackney, East London, has joined London’s Victims Commission­er, Claire Waxman, to call for crown court sentencing remarks and judges’ summing-up to be given for free. They also want crown court sentencing remarks routinely published, magistrate hearings to be recorded and the Victims Code updated to say victims can attend trials after giving evidence.

Charlotte said there are at least 10 people formally involved in the campaign and more backing it.

And Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney is among 38 ministers and charities to send Justice Secretary Alex Chalk an open letter highlighti­ng it. She said: “It beggars belief some victims are charged thousands to read what was said in a trial that impacts them so profoundly. Justice should not have a price tag.”

The Ministry of Justice said judges may provide transcript­s to victims at their discretion, adding: “The fee covers the considerab­le costs [of] writing up the recording of potentiall­y weeks of hearings.”

I have no idea why the judge reached the verdict she did… I need to know to move on

 ?? CAMPAIGN LETTER ?? Charlotte wants system to change
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk
CAMPAIGN LETTER Charlotte wants system to change Justice Secretary Alex Chalk

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