WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 13 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Crime victims call for an end to ‘exploitative’ court transcript costs

Crime victims call for an end to ‘exploitative’ court transcript costs

Sketch of journalists by Isobel Williams

A rape survivor said was quoted £7,500 for the transcript of her trial, according to a BBC Newsnight investigation into ‘exploitative’ charges. The prohibitive costs of court transcripts has long been a concern to open justice campaigners – as reported on the Justice Gap – and featured in the Open Justice Charter.

The BBC investigation by UK editor Sima Kotecha focused on the experience of the victims of violent and sexual crimes including ‘Juliana’ who was raped by her former partner in 2020. Her attacker was convicted by a jury at a trial lasting ten days. Juliana wanted to revisit what had been said in court, but her request for a free copy of the transcript was rejected. The Ministry of Justice explained that victims could ask a judge to order a transcript at public expense however cases were not routinely transcribed.

‘If the request is declined, the fee covers the considerable costs that come with writing up the audio recording of potentially weeks’ worth of hearings,’ a MoJ spokesperson said. She was advised to contact one of the companies outsourced by the government to supply transcripts. The company, Acolad UK Limited, quoted £7,459 for the transcription. According to the BBC, crime victims reported that ‘absorbing what is said in court can be incredibly difficult and traumatic, meaning they may have to rely on a transcription’.

London’s Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman said the current system must ‘urgently change’.  ‘Victims must be able to access accurate and timely transcripts, at no cost to themselves, to support their understanding and recovery, which is an essential part of their justice journey.’

Back in 2016, the Justice Gap reported that APPEAL, then the Centre for Criminal Appeals, were quoted £19,000 for the transcript of a three-week trial. The prohibitive expense of transcripts has long since been recognised as a major impediment for those claiming to be wrongly convicted – it is considered to be essential to obtain the judge’s summing up for an appeal to have any chance.

Court transcription is outsourced to six companies in the UK ‘in a contract worth more than £17m’, according to BBC Newsnight which found costs varying from 80p per 72 words, to £1.71, for a 12-working-day transcription. Acolad charges 80p per 72 words if the transcription is to be completed in 12 working days.