A man who was collected from a Richmond Council care home for sexual abuse has blasted England’s “disgusting” system of charging crime victims for copies of their trial transcripts.

Keith Hinchliffe has been forced to launch a crowd-funding campaign after being told he would have to pay over £6,000 for a transcript of his childhood abuser’s trial.

His abuser was convicted and jailed but Keith is now investigating whether Richmond Council’s social services department could or should have done more to protect him.

The abuse, by his older sister’s boyfriend, began in Twickenham but continued while Keith was placed in the council’s infamous Grafton Close children’s home, in Hounslow, where staff allowed his abuser to collect him and take him out.

The abuser – Philip John Saunders, 67, of Queens Road in Aylesham, Canterbury – was jailed for six years last year after a two-week trial.

But, said Keith: “I didn’t get to hear the whole case. I was only in there to do my part. I was told not to go into the public gallery.

“I need to know exactly what went on inside the courtroom. All I got to hear was what the detective told me.

“For my peace of mind, I need to know the whole thing. It would obviously help me with any civil action as well.”

Court stenographers were once a fixture in English trials, but they have been largely replaced by digital technology for more than a decade.

All crown court trials are now audio recorded – but participants are banned from receiving copies of the recordings, and spectators are banned from making their own recordings.

Anybody who wants to scrutinise a court case after it has ended is forced to use government-approved transcription services, which obtain the recordings and can charge more than £2 per minute to transcribe them.

“It’s an extraordinary sum of money to expect people to pay,” said Keith.

“It’s disgusting. To put a price tag on that for victims is so wrong. It’s abhorrent. I don’t see why any victim should have to pay to find out what has been said about them and their case in court. It’s just another barrier to justice. It seems extraordinary.”

Your Local Guardian: Keith Hinchliffe's complaint about the cost to victims of accessing trial transcripts has coincided with a national debate, led by Richmond Park Lib Dem MP Sarah OlneyKeith Hinchliffe's complaint about the cost to victims of accessing trial transcripts has coincided with a national debate, led by Richmond Park Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney (Image: Keith Hinchliffe)

Catch up on Keith's case:

Keith’s complaint has coincided with Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney repeatedly raising concerns about court transcription costs in Parliament.

On April 17, she told Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that a rape victim had been quoted more than £7,000 and one crime victim had been quoted £22,000.

“Justice should not have a price tag,” the Lib Dem MP said.

Mr Sunak replied that the government was “committed to improving victims’ access to court transcripts”.

“We already offer a free service to families of homicide victims, for example,” said the Prime Minister.

“That is why we have already committed to a one-year pilot to help identify the current demand and inform our next steps.

“Alongside this, we are actively looking at other options to immediately reduce the costs.”

Keith said he felt “sickened” when he watched the exchange.

“Why do we need a pilot scheme?” he asked. “Just do it. We don’t need a pilot scheme to know that victims want and need their transcripts. We just need it done.”

He said rules around recordings and transcripts of court cases were old-fashioned and nonsensical.

“It’s already been digitally audio recorded,” said Keith.

“At the end of the trial, they could easily just give you a USB stick with the audio on it. What would be the issue with that?

“Anyone can come and sit in the public gallery for a trial. So as soon as something has happened in court, it’s in the public domain.

“What is the difference between a reporter listening to it in the public gallery and taking it down in shorthand, and just letting people have the audio?

“The only difference is that the transcription companies get to profit from it. And that, to me, is capitalising on the vulnerability of people who are already in a bad place. It’s wrong.”

Keith, who said his finances had been depleted by his wife’s recent cancer battle and him being medically signed off work due to the stress of his abuse trial, is raising funds towards his transcript online at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/assistance-with-the-costs-of-a-crown-court-transcript