Smith Bernal puts transcripts online

Elizabeth Davidson reports

ALL Court of Appeal and Crown Office list case transcripts are to be provided on the Internet free of charge from early next year.

Court transcript supplier Smith Bernal International, which has a contract with the Lord Chancellor's Department to supply transcripts of court proceedings, is discussing the project with web designers and hopes to launch the service at the start of 1998.

Smith Bernal business development manager Douglas McQuaid said the project would "definitely be going ahead", but added that it was still in the early stages of development.

The company is consulting senior members of the judiciary, solicitors and barristers on how the service should be provided. It added that the transcripts, which will be updated monthly, would be put on the Internet at its own expense.

About 10,000 cases from the civil and criminal Courts of Appeal and the Crown Office list, which covers mainly judicial reviews, will be published on the site annually.

Smith Bernal has also joined forces with electronic publisher Context to set up a service which supplies daily online transcripts of cases from the same courts.

The transcripts will be provided by Smith Bernal and published through Context's Justis Daily Judgments electronic case law publication.

This service will be piloted free of charge to users in November and it is expected to be fully up and running by the end of the year, according to Context marketing director Michelle Green.

The cost for subscribers will be based on Context's existing charging policy. There will be a fixed annual subscription charge, with discounts for academic institutions.

Context currently publishes case reports on CD-Rom six times a year. These reports include additional notes and headings written by legal reporters.

The plan is to use the new service to publish daily transcripts of all cases, not just the important ones, and without any additional headings.

But when a case is likely to be reported in the Law Reports, the Weekly Law Reports, or the Industrial Cases Reports, this will be indicated in the service, said Green. She said other notes could be added to the transcripts within days of publication.