Courtsdesk appointed by UK Courts Service

Courtsdesk appointed by UK Courts Service and £2m Future of News fund to build criminal case data portal for the UK

  • Courtsdesk partnered with UK courts service to build first first nationwide digital access to 1.5m UK criminal court cases

  • Two UK newspaper groups have signed up for the planned Courtsdesk news platform

  • Two largest media representative bodies, the Society of Editors and News Media Association backed the project 

  • Project was selected out of 178 applicants for £2m ‘Future of News’ fund, and won highest grant awarded

Irish legaltech firm Courtsdesk is to build a national data feed of information from across the criminal courts of England and Wales after being selected for the UK government’s £2m ‘Future of News Fund’.

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) earlier this month to facilitate a six  month pilot of its news platform ahead of the fund’s showcase event of grant recipients today. 


Courtsdesk’s work on building a digital news service using legal data was one of 20 selected out of almost 200 applicants for funding , and one of just four which received the highest grant funding available, £70,000.


The grant was awarded to expand its news platform in order to validate its plan to build a service which would supply listings and outcomes of all criminal court cases in the Magistrates Court of England and Wales to news outlets – some 1.5m prosecutions per year – including key information for publication such as charges, prosecutions and sentences.   


The project has the support of the two largest news industry representative bodies, the Society of Editors and the News Media Association, who work with the courts service to ensure media access to the courts. 


The two largest regional newspaper groups in the UK, Newsquest and Reach PLC, which between them publish over 400 newspapers and websites, and employ over 3,000 journalists, have already signed up to trial the platform when it goes live later this year, while talks on collaboration with other media outlets including the BBC and UK national newspapers are also underway. 


Enda Leahy CEO of Courtsdesk, said:


This is really important, and not just for the news sector. It’s important for society as a whole, which I think is borne out by the support we have received from all representatives of the news industry, the UK courts service, from Nesta and the two government departments involved to date. 


“This project aims to help news organisations radically improve the amount and the usefulness of information available to them from the courts, and to help improve the commercial sustainability of court reporting, a type of journalism which has seen precious little technological innovation for decades.


“Our aim at Courtsdesk, is to help to make sure that this integral part of public information is more easily available and useful for those who have a legitimate interest in accessing it. We help source and supply data and technology services to a variety of sectors, from the international news media to law firms and to other business sectors, and for a variety of reasons – be it legal research, corporate due diligence, or, as in this case, to assist the media with reporting on the business of the courts where it intersects with the public interest.


“The importance of access to information from the courts cannot be emphasised enough.  Legal systems are the backbone of civilisation, and what happens in courtrooms affects every citizen, every day of their lives, whether they are aware of it or not. The media is a part of how this functions, so this is a great project to be involved in.” 


Regional newspaper group Newsquest, which publishes 165 news titles across the UK, is one of the news organisations working with Courtsdesk on the project.


Toby Granville, Editorial Development Director at Newsquest, said: 


I know our court reporters were enthused after discussing the potential service with the Courtsdesk team. I think it would be useful across the whole organisation and all of our newspapers and websites could potentially be using the service once it’s live.” 


Until now, access for the news media to proceedings of the Magistrates Courts has been facilitated by distribution of documents from each regional court to local newspapers. The Courtsdesk pilot, by permission from HMCTS and the judiciary, will enable newspapers to access this information as a digital feed of all criminal cases heard in the Magistrates courts across England and Wales. 


The Magistrates Court is the engine room of the UK’s criminal justice system, hearing almost 1.5m cases per year. In 2018, there were 1.469m cases heard, some 93% of all criminal cases in England and Wales that year. 


In Ireland Courtsdesk’s clients include most national newspapers, almost every one of the top 10 law firms, and a range of corporate clients such as An Post, Deloitte, Grant Thornton, and others. 


A number of UK regional news organisations and the Society of Editors and the News Media Association, have been involved in the early product development research for the Courtsdesk News Wire. 


The Future of News Fund was created as a response to the Cairncross Review, a state inquiry into the threats facing the financial sustainability of high quality journalism, which recommended investing grant finance into innovative news solutions. 


The fund is administered by NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which manages the £2m allocated,  on behalf of the UK department of Digital Media Culture and Sport. 


The pilot commences this week for six months and will be reviewed by HMCTS, Courtsdesk and other stakeholders to establish best practice for ongoing information sharing in the interests of open justice during that period.

For more information about our products and services, please complete the contact form, and a member of the team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Find Out More

* indicates required