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New database, launched today, is welcome but still has a long way to go
I first reported this development last May. But today’s soft launch — while the courts are on vacation — is more of a whimper than a bang. What’s on offer is described as an alpha service — not even the beta version — and it failed the simplest test I could think of.
The service is said to be “in the very early stages of development” and, given time and resources, it will certainly improve. But, as those running the database would be the first to admit, it will never be able to compete with commercial providers such as Westlaw UK, LexisNexis and the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, which analyse and annotate judgments delivered by courts and tribunals.
When the government confirmed its plans last June, ministers said they would now withdraw their partial funding for the British and Irish Legal Information Institute, better known as BAILII, the charity that provides the current free database. But, as I explain in this review of the new National Archives service, BAILII’s website is currently much more comprehensive and will continue to be the first port of call for those who do not have access to a commercial provider.