Media challenge CPR change

Amendment to rules restricts access to court documents

Some of the UK’s largest media organisations are challenging a change to the Civil Procedure Rules which they say is an “unnecessary and disproportionate interference with the right to freedom of expression”.

The amendment to Rule 5.4(5)(a)(i) provides that a non-party to a case may have a copy of the claim form “but not any documents filed with or attached to or intended by the claimant to be served with such claim form” such as the particulars of the claim.

Associated Newspapers, News International and Trinity Mirror have instructed Reynolds Porter Chamberlain to challenge the change, which came into force on Saturday 1 October. They say that the CPR committee should have consulted on the amended rule before it came into force.

Alastair Brett of The Times was quoted by The Lawyer as saying: “It does appear to be a substantive rule change, which flies in the face of justice.”  The Lawyer also quotes RPC partner Keith Mathieson, who has written in a letter to the committee that the change would “further restrict the availability to the public of court documents and information concerning court proceedings”.

The Department for Constitutional Affairs said the amendment is merely a clarification of existing rules rather than a change.