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Open Justice, Transparency and the Judiciary

On 31 March 2021, the School of Law of the Cyprus Campus of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan Cyprus) was honoured to host a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Webinar entitled ‘Open Justice, Transparency and the Judiciary’.  This was the first of a series of free transparency-related Webinars organised by the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus, in association with the British High Commission in Nicosia.

The series has been organised in the light of the coming into force, on 22 December 2020, of landmark new legislation in the Republic of Cyprus – the Law on the Right of Access to Public Sector Information 2017 (Ο περί του Δικαιώματος Πρόσβασης σε Πληροφορίες του Δημοσίου Τομέα Νόμος του 2017) which is available in Greek on the Cylaw website of the Cyprus Bar Association at www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2017_1_184/full.html

With the new legislation in mind, the general aim of the series is to promote greater public awareness of what is meant by transparency, open justice, access to public sector information and related principles. A related aim is to reflect upon the British experience of applying these principles in practice.

The first Webinar of the series began with an Introduction by Professor Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou, Professor of European Law & Reform and Head of the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus.  She set the scene in the wider framework of the rule of law and its upholding in Europe.  She placed particular emphasis on the south eastern Mediterranean, with reference to the universal lens of core legal and constitutional principles with far-reaching implications for the United Kingdom, the Republic of Cyprus and other democratic sovereign states which belong to the Commonwealth, the Council of Europe or both.

The Introduction of the Head of School was followed by some Opening Remarks by Stephen Lillie CMG, British High Commissioner to Cyprus, which highlighted the UK Government’s commitment to promoting transparency in collaboration with the Republic of Cyprus and other international partners.

The next to address the audience was the Keynote Speaker – Sir Robin Knowles CBE, a Judge of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales and an experienced member of the Judiciary who sits in the Commercial Court, the Administrative Court and the Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Criminal Division).  Sir Robin offered an incisive evaluation of the meaning, significance and implications of Open Justice.  In that context, Sir Robin paid particular attention to a number of issues.

For instance, in order to highlight the relevance of open justice to the rule of law, Sir Robin drew attention to the classic analyses of the rule of law by two distinguished judges.  One was the late Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the then Senior Law Lord, in a lecture delivered in Cambridge on 16 November 2006.  The second was Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the successor to Lord Bingham as Senior Law Lord and the then President-Elect of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, in a lecture delivered in Doha on 30 May 2009.

By way of example, Sir Robin indicated that open justice is implicit in the first of what Lord Bingham described as eight ‘sub-rules’ without which the rule of law cannot be properly understood.  Under the first ‘sub-rule’ identified by Lord Bingham, ‘the law must be accessible and so far as possible intelligible, clear and predictable.’  Sir Robin offered other examples such as the fifth of the ‘six short propositions’ that Lord Phillips suggested ‘will be at the heart of our success or failure in ensuring that tensions are resolved by the rule of law, and not by acts of war.’  Open justice is implicit in the fifth proposition of Lord Phillips, which submits that ‘access to justice must be open to all.’

(The transcripts of the aforementioned lectures of Lord Bingham and Lord Phillips are freely available online at www.cpl.law.cam.ac.uk/sir-david-williams-lectures/rt-hon-lord-bingham-cornhill-kg-rule-law and at http://www.qatarconferences.org/qatarlaw2009/english/speeches/philips_en1.pdf respectively.)

The Keynote Speech was followed by a supporting analysis by Dr Klearchos A. Kyriakides, Assistant Professor in the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus and its Deputy Head.  In his capacity as Discussant at the Webinar, Dr Kyriakides began by referring to the analysis of the rule of law by Lord Bingham, which had previously been mentioned by Sir Robin.  Dr Kyriakides argued that transparency and open justice were inherent in the ‘core’ of the rule of law, as defined by Lord Bingham.  According to Lord Bingham, ‘all persons and authorities within the state, whether public or private, should be bound by and entitled to the benefit of laws publicly and prospectively promulgated and publicly administered in the courts.’  Dr Kyriakides pointed out that this definition embodied the adverb ‘publicly’, which is synonymous with both transparency and open justice.

Bearing in mind that the Republic of Cyprus is blessed with common law, Dr Kyriakides moved on to identify some key common law principles relating to Open Justice, Natural Justice and related matters, particularly as articulated by the Courts of England and Wales, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and other Courts.  He also explained why legal education is facilitated by Open Justice and the resources made freely available online by the Judiciary of England and Wales (including those at www.judiciary.uk), the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (including those at www.supremecourt.uk) and the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (at www.bailii.org).

The paper accompanying the presentation of Dr Kyriakides has been made freely available here.

The Webinar ended with a Question-and-Answer session.

As UCLan Cyprus, through its School of Law, is an accredited provider of CPD programmes under the relevant Cyprus Bar Association scheme, the participation in the Webinar of lawyers practising in the Republic of Cyprus was certified in accordance with the CPD requirements of the Cyprus Bar Association.

UCLan Cyprus expresses its profound gratitude to Sir Robin Knowles, to High Commissioner Stephen Lillie and to the colleagues of both. UCLan Cyprus also thanks the members of the legal profession, law students and members of the general public who attended the CPD Webinar held on 31 March 2021.

The flyer relating to the CPD Webinar is available here: www.uclancyprus.ac.cy/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CDP_Webinar_Transparency_FINAL.pdf

In the aftermath of the Webinar, two relevant developments have taken place which should not go unmentioned.

Firstly, the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus, in association with the British High Commission in Nicosia, organised the second Webinar in its free series on Transparency.  This took place from on 25 May 2021 on the subject of ‘Parliamentary Transparency and Accountability’.  The Keynote Speaker was Saira Salimi, Speaker’s Counsel in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.  The School of Law thanks Ms Salimi, the British High Commission and all others involved in support of this second Webinar.

Secondly, in response to a worthy new initiative of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, which was unveiled on 28 April 2021, the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus recently organised an Educational Virtual Tour of the Court.  This took place, via Microsoft Teams, on 22 June 2021.  It was for the benefit of LLB and LLM students at UCLan Cyprus for whom admission was free.

The Tour included an overview of the history, statutory basis and constitutional role of the Supreme Court, as kindly provided by one of its Information Officers.  The Tour also included an insight into the duties of the Judicial Assistants to the Justices of the Court, as kindly provided by one of these Judicial Assistants.

The School of Law of UCLan Cyprus hereby records its gratitude to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and to all of its members of staff who were involved in the Tour.  At a time when personal visits to court buildings continue to be difficult amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the new initiative of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is much needed.  In addition to helping students to gain a realistic – if virtual – insight into the Court, the new initiative underlines that the twin principles of open justice and transparency have tangible educational dimensions that may be facilitated by technology.

Schools, colleges and universities which are interested in organising an Educational Virtual Tour may find details on the website of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom at www.supremecourt.uk/visits-for-schools-colleges-and-universities.html  and at www.supremecourt.uk/news/supreme-court-launches-virtual-tours-for-members-of-the-public.html

Finally, it is hoped that this press release will enable the educational impact of the CPD Webinar held on 31 March 2021 to be long-lasting and not geographically confined to the Republic of Cyprus.  After all, open justice is a principle of interest to judges, lawyers, law students and members of the general public wherever they may be, especially in those parts of the Commonwealth and the wider world that share the common law tradition.

A photograph of the Webinar held on 31 March 2021, as posted on Twitter by the British High Commission in Nicosia at https://twitter.com/UKinCyprus/status/1377546075578499074