The Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press broke new ground in the way proceedings were conducted. And as Adam Wagner noted on the UK Human Rights Blog, it was the first time a public inquiry was shown live over the internet*. In his view, this constituted ‘a minor landmark for open justice’. Other inquiries held under the Act had also made online material available, but not in the detail provided on the Leveson Inquiry’s site.
The transcripts, written evidence and final report are all available online. While this openness of proceedings is to be applauded (and it is hoped future public inquiries will follow suit), there is still a lot to be desired in terms of accessibility and searchability. The report is split across several PDFs, the transcripts are not organised in a searchable format and there is no easy way to pinpoint references in either the transcripts or the report, with a hyperlink to the relevant page or line.
Fortunately, some time back, the excellent mySociety made the transcripts far more user-friendly with its fantastic Leveson SayIt tool.
And now Robert Sharp, free speech writer and campaigner, has done a sterling job of freeing the report from its cumbersome PDF format, with ‘an open, linkable, HTML version’.
Could this provide inspiration for future legal and policy reports? At the very least, it would be helpful if public legal texts are released in formats and with licences that allow developers to make texts truly open and searchable.
- Townend, J (2013). Leveson online: A publicly reported inquiry, Ethical Space, Vol. 10, No. 1 [download]
*While Chilcott Inquiry (into the Blair government’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003), which heard evidence from 2009 to 2011 was also broadcast live and tweeted about, it was not a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.