Guardian victory on access to court documents

Judge orders release of Alvis documents

The Guardian newspaper today won an important ruling on access to court documents.  Park J granted it access to the court file in the Alvis case (Chan U Seek v Alvis Vehicles Ltd) in which it was alleged that the defendant tank manufacturer had paid bribes to the daughter of the then Indonesian president in order to secure a £160m contract.

The case reached trial, then settled. The Guardian requested copies of certain documents in the case from the parties but they refused.  The Guardian applied to the court for access to the documents under CPR 5.4(5)(b).  Alvis contended that this provision permitted only the court hearing the original case to grant access, and that since the case had ended, that court no longer existed. 

In an ex tempore judgment, Park J rejected this submission, holding that the relevant court was the High Court which, obviously, still ‘existed’.  Further, because the documents had entered the public domain, the request was legitimate and disclosure would not cause any particular damage to Alvis, the judge decided to accede to The Guardian‘s application. The judge emphasised the importance of the principle of open justice and observed that this required that the press should face as few impediments as possible in reporting court proceedings.

Click here for the 5RB case report.