Whether court should order release of the audio recording of a judgment/status of judgments
The defendant applied for an order that the audio recording of the judgment of a district judge be released, on the basis that the transcript (generated a year later) did not accurately record what was said in court. The application was rejected, HHJ Matthews making the following points:
(1) An order expresses the court's decision, whereas a judgment only expresses the court's reasons.
(2) It is entirely lawful and proper for a judge to amend the transcript, not only to correct eg spelling mistakes, but also to ensure that the reasons recorded accurately reflect why the decision was made (even if they were not fully articulated before). Furthermore, the judge can also alter even the decision itself when he/she receives the transcript.
(3) The current practice is to reserve judgment and to circulate a draft judgment before handing it down. A judge may alter the draft judgment between circulating it (and receiving comments from the parties) and handing it down.
(4) Even after handing down a judgment, a judge can amend it, and even change the decision, before it is sealed.
Accordingly, the application was bound to fail. The judge suggested that an application might succeed, though, if an allegation is made "that the statement that the judge had revised and approved the transcript was false, or that although the transcript was so revised and approved it nevertheless did not reflect accurately the judge's reasons for the decision, or that the judge had added to the transcript a new point never previously raised (and which the parties had not been able to comment on), and then decided the case on the new basis…. It would be a high hurdle to overcome, for obvious reasons, but I cannot say that it could never be done".