Sunak fails to back Sarah Olney’s call for free court transcripts for victims

Rishi Sunak today failed to back a call at Prime Minister’s Questions from our Sarah Olney, to change the law to give victims access to free court transcripts.

Sarah’s question was on behalf of her constituent, Juliana Terlizzi, who was drugged and raped by her then boyfriend in 2020. When Ms Terlizzi requested a copy of the court transcript to aid with her healing process, she was ordered to pay over £7,000 to access it. Ms Terlizzi, who was in the gallery for the question, branded Rishi Sunak’s response as yet more empty words, adding it was “a slap in the face” for victims.

This is not the only time this has happened One recent case involved a girl who was raped and sexually abused by her father, but whose family were then quoted £6,534 for the transcript of his trial.

Lib Dem peer Sal Brinton has proposed an amendment to the Victims’ and Prisoners’ Bill, scheduled for a vote in the House of Lords on Tuesday 23rd April, which would tackle these costs being charged to victims. It would allow all crime victims to request a transcript of the court’s summing up and sentencing remarks, so long as the trial took place in a court where the proceedings are recorded. This would include all crown court cases where serious offences, including robbery, rape and murder, are tried.

Sarah Olney said:

No victim or bereaved family should be forced to pay thousands to access a court transcript that’s part of their own story. The Prime Minister could easily tackle this injustice, but his government’s continued refusal to do so speaks volumes.

Cases like Juliana’s are sadly all too common. Yet still, Conservative Ministers have continually failed to support our amendment to the Victims’ Bill which would help reduce the cost of these transcripts for victims.

Victims deserve real action, not just empty words. It is high time the Prime Minister stood up, listened to our calls, and took concrete action to make this much needed change.

Juliana Terlizzi said:

Rishi Sunak’s response today was a slap in the face for victims. ‘Sorry’ does not go far enough for people like me who are sick and tired of empty promises from a government which, when push comes to shove, continually refuses our calls for action on court transcript costs.

Justice should not have a price tag. Rather than yet more empty words, the government must finally act to support victims and back this amendment to reduce transcript costs.

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  • Peter Martin 17th Apr '24 - 5:48pm

    Transcripts for trials should be freely available to everyone.

    Those who are fighting against unjust convictions also face similar bills for thousands of pounds when trying to examine the evidence against them.

    Andrew Malkinson was cleared by the appeal court last year after spending 17 years in prison for a 2003 rape he did not commit. His exoneration came after new DNA testing linked another man to the crime.

    I don’t have any inside knowledge of the expenses he and his family would have incurred but the problem is clearly much broader than Ms Olney might appreciate or want to admit to.

  • Free transcripts of entire trials for all victims for any reason at all is not a reasonable or practical demand. It may sound cold, but the courts exist to administer justice, not to ‘aid with the healing process’ at what would be considerable taxpayer expense.

    Transcripts cost money because there is a cost to produce them (though the final cost tends to be lower than initial quotes, once narrowed down to what is actually required). Somebody, highly skilled, has to be paid to take the time to listen to the court recording, accurately transcribe what has been said, and redact anything that needs to be redacted. This is something that requires human oversight.

    It’s also the case that defendants, including those who may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, also have to pay – this is not a victim only issue.

    It’s been disappointing that Sarah Olney – who otherwise I think a lot of – has not acknowledged these things.

    Sal Brinton’s amendment to cover sentencing remarks and summing up is a more reasonable thing to consider.

  • Peter Davies 17th Apr '24 - 9:33pm

    Either that is a completely unreasonable administrative fee with no relation to the cost of finding and emailing the data or the administration of our court system is not fit for purpose.

  • @ Peter Davies above

    Well said, Peter! Indeed, not either/or, but both.

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