Use of Plain English in Courts

Judges, court staff and barristers should speak in plain English and the courts should make better use of communications in order to make the work of courts more efficient. These are the main conclusions of a recent report by the Criminal Justice Alliance.

The report, called To Be Fair: procedural fairness in courts, recommended a number of improvements to make court proceedings understandable and to seem and feel fairer.  Among these were:

  • sending text and other written reminders about court appearances in plain English.
  • judges explaining their decisions without resorting to jargon.
  • court staff being on hand to explain clearly how the proceedings work and what any decision of the court means.

The Criminal Justice Alliance is a coalition of 75 organisations that work to establish a fairer and more effective criminal justice system.

Phil Bowen, one of the report’s authors, said, “This research shows that small practical steps to improve communication of all types for people who have to come to court can make a big difference. Judges can change how they speak to victims, who are often concerned about what is going to happen.

“These sorts of steps are needed to make sure that justice is as accessible, transparent and fair as possible.”

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