The case was always likely to be full of controversy and complexity as well as salacious detail. This is not in itself remarkable: public law is often the cutting edge of social and political issues. What is unusual is the manner in which Mr Justice Foskett approached his task by looking outwards to the general public, as well as inwards to the legal system.
As Mr Wagner says, this is an encouraging development and it would be good to see more legal judgments posted online. However, I think he is being a bit optimistic here:
A more open judicial system would help the press, prevent hasty reporting errors spreading via the internet, and improve access to justice for the general public…
The judgment from the original hearing on 23 April, in which the judge expressed his unease about Sharon Shoesmith’s dismissal, was published online too. It didn’t stop the Sun from printing this twisted spin on his ruling or a whole host of mini-me bloggers from simply regurgitating what they had read in the tabloids.
Many people had already made up their minds about Sharon Shoesmith and they filtered out anything that contradicted their opinions – even the comments of an eminent judge.
Overall, though, I agree with Adam Wagner. Publishing online judgments is a positive step. It allows members of the public to read the reasons behind legal decisions and make up their own minds. Most importantly, it enables people to see through the distortion and truth-bending that passes for reporting in some of our newspapers.