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Newspaper publisher gets ready to test searchable court case system

Caerphilly Media, an independent newspaper publisher in south Wales is building a live, searchable, database of every criminal case heard in magistrates courts across England and Wales.

Newspaper publisher gets ready to test searchable court case system
Caerphilly Media's Levi Harris-Browning (on the left) and Richard Gurner.

At present, says Caerphilly Media, journalists can access details of court cases by having PDF copies of court sessions emailed to them from individual courts.

Caerphilly Media’s The Court List service aims to make it easy for journalists to look up case details by building a live, searchable, database of cases from magistrates’ courts throughout England and Wales.

The publishers of the Caerphilly Observer set to work following funding from Clwstwr – an ambitious five-year programme to create new products, services and experiences for the screen industries based in Wales.

Initial development on the project started in April 2018 following a successful funding bid from Google’s DNI fund.

A prototype is on course to be ready for testing next month, say the publishers.

Richard Gurner, director of Caerphilly Media, said: “As a working journalist I have found the current system of getting court case details problematic and time-consuming.

“Checking the details of a defendant can often take minutes, rather than seconds - add that up over the course of a year and hours and days are wasted wading through court documents.

“Stories of high public interest importance can also often be missed.

“With court closures and admin centralised, the PDF documents that come through are often around 100 pages long. I thought there must be an easier way. More than two years later, and a lot of hard work from our dedicated team, we are almost there with a prototype.

“We’re looking for media groups to partner with for testing and to refine what should be a revolutionary tool for journalists.”

Clwstwr Director Professor Justin Lewis said: “We have been delighted to see Richard and the team identify and pursue a real opportunity to create a new service that will benefit the entire UK news industry. The fact that this innovation has been developed by a small team from South Wales demonstrates the creativity and ambition within our media cluster, and exemplifies Clwstwr’s drive to make South Wales a centre of media innovation.”

According to Caerphilly Media, as well as looking up individual court appearances, The Court List will eventually have several different features to help reporters keep tabs on cases they are interested in, such as alerts and diary functions, as well as the ability to learn the type of stories that could be of interest to journalists and the wider public.

To help develop its future direction, The Court List wants to hear from journalists and is conducting research into their needs. Click here to take part.

If you are a publisher interested in helping test The Court List, email richard@caerphilly.observer