HC Deb 13 March 1995 vol 256 cc557-8
26. Mrs. Lait

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what provision is made for people on low incomes to obtain transcripts of legal cases where they are victims.

Mr. John M. Taylor

All victims who request a copy of an existing transcript will be provided with one free of charge.

Mrs. Lait

I thank my hon. Friend for that information. However, does he acknowledge that victims often find it helpful to be able to read a transcript and that they may need to read one in order to bring a civil case in respect of which, as my hon.

Friend is aware, original transcripts are not provided through legal aid? How can we ensure that those victims have access to justice?

Mr. Taylor

If it were not such a serious subject, I would have to say that there is no such thing as a free transcript. Where no existing transcript is available, a legally aided person may receive assistance in meeting the cost of transcription. That is the best that I can do at the moment. If my hon. Friend would like to return to the charge, I want to be as helpful in that part of victim support as I possibly can be.

Mr. Gerrard

Does the Minister accept that there is a problem in that transcripts often do not exist and will be made only when one of the barristers concerned in a case requests one? Therefore, the costs could be substantial. Does the Minister also accept that a victim, and particularly the relative of a murdered victim, may have a legitimate reason for wishing to have access to a transcript, but at the moment would find that transcript prohibitively expensive?

Mr. Taylor

I am not going to say that it is not quite expensive to have transcripts. It is very labour intensive to produce all the words spoken in a court. The best advice that I can give to the hon. Gentleman this afternoon is to say that people do not need to acquire whole transcripts. They can concentrate on that part of the evidence that is material to their complaint.