We are a law reporting service. We index and publish case law for use by professional lawyers, law students or academics, or by litigants. We help them identify principles of law, and where those principles can be found in case law. Law reporting is an age old and essential part of all legal systems.
Justice must be open: “Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity.” (Lord Shaw of Dunfermline HL, Scott v Scott  AC 417 – https://swarb.co.uk/scott-v-scott-hl-5-may-1913/).
In January 2016, in the Supreme Court, in the case of Regina (on the application of C) v Secretary of State for Justice (https://swarb.co.uk/regina-on-the-application-of-c-v-secretary-of-state-for-justice-sc-27-jan-2016/), Lady Hale re-enforced this, saying: “the names of the people whose cases are being decided, and others involved in the hearing, should be public knowledge.”
As a public policy, Courts now publish very many cases which might not have been published before, including Tribunal hearings, Information Commissioner’s Office Decisions, the Employment Tribunals, Land Registry Adjudications, Nominet arbitration decisions, and many cases before Magistrates and County Courts. As at August 2021, it is worth noting a clear decision by the government themseves to make many more decisions publicly available through the National Archives. Just what happens remains to be seen, but it is clear only that there will be greater, and irreversible, publicity for litigants.
A party to any court proceedings must expect that his or her name and the decision will be publicly available. A litigant can always ask the court that his or her case be anonymised before publication, and courts will sometimes take that step without being asked. The general practice is available in the Civil Procedure Rules 39.2. You may or may not have made such a request. Sometimes that request is made successfully after the event. Such decisions are perhaps now made more often.
Your judges, and the system within which they work, go to considerable trouble and expense exactly to ensure that your decision is published and made available in the form which the court selects. We play a proper part in that system.
The case was therefore published by the court with your name. It will always remain a matter of public record available on official and other web-sites. Often, the cases we index will also appear in full printed form in one or more series.
A second principle is the legal doctrine of judicial precedent. Those involved in litigation identify legal principles from earlier published cases, and later courts apply those cases and possibly the case generated. By centuries old tradition, cases are referred to by the names of the parties. This bit of law has its equivalent in nearly every legal jurisdiction we know of (Latvia may have taken a different direction). The public reporting of case law is essential to achieve this. When your case was argued, you or your lawyers will usually present arguments relying upon earlier cases making similar arguments. You will use the names of parties involved in those earlier cases to identify their cases and make reference to the points of law established or demonstrated.
You may have seen reference the European Court of Justice case: “Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Gonzalez” See (http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf). This provides that a search engine must consider requests to exclude name properly, deciding whether or not the search result should be deleted. This does not create a ‘right to be forgotten’. It explicitly limits its scope to search engines. The case against the online publisher of information about the case failed. A footnote to the Opinion in the case says: “Specific issues relating to search engines operating within a defined internet domain (or website) such as http://curia.europa.eu are not discussed in this opinion.” The name ‘Gonzalez’ has, ironically, become integral to the legal discussion of the issue of publishing named case law.
We are not a search engine, and are not directly governed by this ruling. Material which contributes to our purpose, and may be of help to those we set out to support will, in general, be retained.
Where we provide a factual summary, it should accurately reflect the facts found by the court, enough to explain the basis of the legal issue identified. A party will often have a different view of the court’s factual findings, and also that an appeal may be pending. Our interest is in the legal issues, which can only be assessed in the light of the facts as found. We welcome comments about our summary and will correct where necessary, but we are not attempting to support or deny the truth of those findings. We report the findings, not the accuracy of those findings.
When we receive a request for the removal of a reference to a case
Several factors may affect our response to different extents according to circumstances. Among them are:
Any decision by the court as to anonymisation,
The sensitivity of the issues,
Any known vulnerability of a party,
Any new or clear restatement of a point of law,
The case being cited in other cases,
The citation within the case of other cases by name,
The availability of the judgment on other web-sites and in paper reports,
Can identifiers properly be reduced,
The age of the case,
The court level (tribunal, divisional or higher)
Who originated the case
Are we clear that the person originating the request is a person involved
To what extent our listing has been used.
Other factors may also be relevant and will be applied.
We make an individual and respectful assessment of each request. Sometimes we are able to do entirely as requested, or in part, and sometimes not. The case may disappear whilst that consideration happens, but without necessarily a final decision having been made.
People (understandably) sometimes misinterpret the GDPR so called ‘right to be forgotten’. There is indeed a right to make a request to be forgotten, but the regulations requires us to find a proper balance between an individual’s privacy rights, and the public interest. There is a clear and demonstrable public value in the publication of court and tribunal decisions. To an extent, we follow on, and stand on the shoulders of the court’s own decision (after the same balancing exercise) to make the judgment public. Nevertheless, our duty remains and we consider each request on its own merits.
Any change within the database can take several days to work its way through to the web-site, and again similarly before it is reflected in any third party search engine. Any change on Google will normally appear within fourteen days. Some parts of our site are also cached, and the cache will be updated fairly quickly, but not immediately.