Judiciary transparency is crucial to the public's conception of Denmark as a society founded on the rule of law and to public confidence in the judiciary.
Judiciary transparency has, in the strict sense, obvious due-process purposes, but transparency in a wider sense – meaning availability to users and the press as well as general enlightenment of the public – is imperative in modern societies.
Both the Danish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights ensure open justice.
Open justice has two specific purposes. First, open justice should ensure that the relevant parties are not subjected to secret justice, which involves the risk that irrelevant considerations are given weight during adjudication. Secondly, the requirement for open justice will improve public confidence in the judicial system because the public learns how cases are adjudicated.
Open justice covers both public access to attending legal proceedings and media access to court room coverage. However, open justice sometimes has to yield to consideration for the parties or the investigation. In these situations, the court may decide to hear the case behind closed doors or impose reporting restrictions on certain details from the proceedings or the identity of the defendant.
Interaction with the media
The public will primarily learn about court proceedings via the media. And media interest in court procedures is indeed great. Knife killing, gang rape and violence are given both newspaper coverage and broadcasting time. Press coverage of legal proceedings is very important for the public conception of due process. Therefore good interaction between the media and the judiciary is essential. Under all circumstances, Denmark as a society founded on the rule of law cannot function adequately unless information about court procedures is a communicative task to be undertaken by the media in concert with the judiciary.
For this reason, in their communication policy the Courts of Denmark propose that the judiciary should, while observing professional secrecy, assist reporters by giving them background information, e.g. about legal practice in a given field. This may help ensure that the public is informed competently and adequately about proceedings and decisions in specific cases.
The communication policy includes some advice about interaction with the press. For it is important to us that the public and the press should, as far as possible, receive the same good treatment in all of Denmark.
In other areas, the Courts of Denmark has taken steps to strengthen the medie relations. A Communication network has been established with a contact person in each court aiming to help journalists and some courts have press judges that can explain and make a comment on court rulings.
Public database of court decisions
An online database of the decisions delivered by the Danish Courts would support the principle of open justice. It would give the public easy and free access to court decisions and thus improve public knowledge of court rulings and procedures.
A project group appointed by the Danish Court Administration has therefore drafted a proposal for establishment of a public database of decisions.
The project group proposes that all rulings of the Supreme Court, the high courts and the Maritime and Commercial Court should be published in the database. This amounts to some 6000 decisions annually. Rulings in appellate cases must be published together with the previous judgments in the relevant case. In a subsequent phase all decisions by first instance courts should be included in the database.
Hopefully, the project group's efforts have produced the requisite basis for establishing the database. The establishment of the database currently awaits a clarification of a set of practical, legal and economic issues.
An important element of judicial transparency is the public accessibility of the courts. E-justice – the use of modern technologies in court proceedings – has a key role to play in improving access to justice.
Digital communication with the courts has, however, for many years been restricted by various legislative obstacles, e.g. the sine qua nons of written proceedings and signatures on documents. The Danish Administration of Justice Act has been amended to prepare the way for the use of digital communication in general and e-mail in particular in court proceedings. The new rules have not yet entered into force.
It is today possible to communicate using secure and non-secure e-mails with the courts but official legal material and documents also have to be supplied in signed paper versions.
A new case administration system for the courts is currently under development. This will allow for secure and sound modern online communication. In the near future, thus, e-mail correspondence and other forms of digital communication will to a larger extent facilitate user contact with the courts.
The fully digital land registry, which will be ready in 2009, is a first step in that direction.
Sidst opdateret: 17. februar 2020