Freer access rules to Court documents

Media and the general public will have better access to Court documents from this Friday, 12 June, when the High Court (Access to Court Documents) Amendment Rules 2009 come into effect.

General rights of access will be extended to any Court file or document - written or electronic - including any pleading, affidavit or document admitted into evidence.  

There will be no time bar on access.  Court documents will be available during the substantive hearing stage and any time after the hearing.  A request for access during a substantive proceeding (including a 20-day period after determination) or an application for access outside the substantive hearing stage can be made informally to the Registrar by letter. 

The letter must identify the requested document and give reasons for the request.  Access will be granted subject to specific statutory restrictions and objections by the parties to the proceeding.  Where there is objection, the matter will be referred to a Judge.  Judges will retain the discretion to make enquiries into a requester’s intention but must also take into account principles of open justice, the freedom to seek, receive and impart information, confidentiality and privacy concerns.  This represents a significant relaxation on the existing regime and should provide more consistent outcomes.

Now leave to search Court documents is dependent upon the person being able to demonstrate a “genuine or proper interest” and access is restricted to Court registers, indexes and documents that are of public notice, or in the case of terminated proceedings, on request within six years of the final determination. For further information, please contact Principal Justin Graham.

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Related topics: Litigation & dispute resolution

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