Guidance

Access to courts and tribunals for academic researchers

Apply for permission to access HM Courts and Tribunals Service to carry out academic research.

Overview

If your research involves gathering data, interviewing staff or accessing court files, you need to:

  1. get funding
  2. find sponsorship
  3. apply to the Data Access Panel
  4. get a Privileged Access Agreement, if required

Allow up to 8 weeks for approval after we’ve received your application.

Funding

You must have put funding in place and received a letter of approval from your university’s ethics committee before we’ll consider your application.

Sponsorship

When you have secured funding, you need to get in touch with the relevant academic research contact to discuss sponsorship.

Sponsors will check if your research:

  • is practical, acceptable and reasonable
  • duplicates any current research
  • is factually sound
  • might be made redundant by any imminent changes in the law

Apply to the Data Access Panel

The panel decides if your research project is feasible. It also makes sure that your research won’t disrupt HMCTS activities.

Application form

Fill in the Data Access Panel application form (MS Word Document, 401KB) using the Data Access Panel application guidance (MS Word Document, 479KB) .

Your application form must include details of:

  • courts and tribunals you plan to look at and for how long
  • activities you plan to observe, how you’ll do it and how you’ll avoid disruption for court users and staff
  • data you’ll gather and how you’ll gather it
  • case numbers and the location of files you want to view (try solicitors’ firms and other legal service providers first)
  • who will be involved in the research - as only named individuals will be approved
  • if you want to observe court process (you’ll need special permission for courts that aren’t open to the public)
  • questionnaires, surveys and interviews you’re planning and who you want to ask

To get help preparing surveys and questionnaires, email statistics.enquiries@justice.gsi.gov.uk

Application checklist

Your application must contain all of the following documents:

  • your Data Access Panel application
  • your research proposal
  • your sponsorship commitment
  • a letter of approval from your university’s ethics committee
  • questionnaire or interview questions you will use
  • CVs of those involved in the research
  • any other relevant documents

Where to send your application

Send your application form and the documents to the Data Access Panel Secretariat.

Email: umesh.mistry@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Umesh Mistry
Strategy and Change Directorate
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Performance, Analysis and Reporting Team
1st Floor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

We will write to let you and your sponsor know if your application is approved.

Privileged Access Agreement

If you want to view court files as part of your research, you’ll also need a Privileged Access Agreement.

We will forward your details to the Records Management Services who will arrange this permission for you.

This can take up to 4 weeks.

Personal reasons to view a case file

If you want to view a court file because a member of your family has been involved in a hearing, you must write to:

Head of Records Management Services and Departmental Records Officer
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

You must include:

  • your full name and address
  • file details (ie file reference, title and full name of defendant, name of the court/tribunal where the hearing took place, date of final hearing)
  • reason for wanting access
  • details how you’ll use the information you find

Academic research sponsorship contact details

Contact the relevant individual below to get a business sponsor for your research.

Criminal courts

Crime Directorate
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
2nd Floor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Email: crimedirectoratesupport@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Civil business

Paul Downer
Civil, Family and Tribunals Directorate
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Zone 1.42, 1st Floor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Email: paul.downer@justice.gsi.gov.uk

Family business

Patrick O'Shea
Civil, Family and Tribunals Directorate
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Zone 1.42, 1st Floor
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

Email: patrick.o’shea@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Tribunals business

Jason Latham
Civil, Family and Tribunals Directorate
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Manchester Civil Centre
Manchester
M60 9DJ

Email: jason.latham@hmcts.gsi.gov.uk

Judiciary only

Your business sponsor will be the Judicial Office.

Email: researchrequest@judiciary.gsi.gov.uk