UK court systems set to adopt domain names

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A judge's wig
Image caption,
The judicial system wants a new web address to make clear it is not a government department

England and Wales's judicial system are to change their websites so that they end with the domain name

Registry manager Nominet approved the move following a request from the Judicial Office and the Cabinet Office.

Until now, the sites have shared the ending with the government, but the move is intended to reflect the judiciary's independence.

Scotland and Northern Ireland's court systems are also in discussions to join the scheme.

"The judiciary is independent of both Parliament and the executive and therefore it is more appropriate to signal this by a separate .uk domain," a spokesman for the Judicial Office told the BBC.

"The approach is not unusual. For example, Parliament, police and armed forces each have a second level domain."


Only judges, magistrates, tribunals and other parts of the court system will be allowed to be granted a web name ending in New email addresses may also be issued and would be subject to the same restriction.

This is designed to ensure that the domain name acts as a badge of authenticity, and avoids the risk of cybersquatters.

However, Nominet said its main motivation to allow the proposal was to recognise the independence of the legal system.

"The people who work in the court service feel separate from the government," said Nominet's senior legal counsel, Nick Wenban-Smith.

"The websites will still be operated under the same sort of secure government networks, I believe, so this is really a re-labelling of something that is wrongly labelled government, and correctly labelling it as the independent judiciary."

Independent judiciaries

The move will involve extra costs for the courts' communications departments which will need to print new publicity materials and stationery. However, Nominet said it is not charging a registration fee.

A spokeswoman for Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice's Office said it may also adopt the scheme, but it wanted a way to distinguish the UK's three court systems.

"We will be giving consideration to the matter next year and there is a possibility that we would use the second level domain, but my understanding is that there would be a way of identifying the judicial websites from the different jurisdictions in the UK," said Alison Houston.

"I am not sure of the practicalities of this as yet."

The Judicial Office in London said it was still exploring the technical implications of making clear which legal system was involved with each address.

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