Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft
Australia leads way on database
The UK should start to build an independent, free case law and legislation database on the Australian model without delay, a conference on access to the law concluded last month. Held by the Society for Computers & Law (SC&L) in London, the Free the Law conference agreed unanimously that the Australian on-line legal database, known as AustLII (Australasian Legal Information Institute), was a development long overdue in the UK. Laurence Eastham, co-ordinating editor of the SC&L journal, urged that lawyers and other interested parties should join to create a UK database without waiting for the government to take the initiative. A SC&L spokeswoman this week predicted that a UK equivalent to AustLII would be set in motion in the new year. According to Professor Graham Greenleaf, of the University of South Wales, AustLII was founded in 1995 with an academic grant of A$100,000 (about £40,000), with the aim of providing free access to Australian legal information via the Internet. The service now has 80 databases of case law, legislation and other materials, including the full texts of more than 100,000 cases and over one million pages of legislation. Up to 200,000 pages of the AustLII Web site are accessed each day. Its centrepiece is a national law collection, consisting of legislation and decisions of the superior courts of all nine Australian jurisdictions. Funding bodies, known as stakeholders, include government departments, business and other non-government organisations with an interest in easy access to up-to-date legal information. Speakers at the conference agreed that a UK version of AustLII should be independent of government and the legal profession.