Transparency Pilot within the Family Court - are Journalists now able to report on family cases?

1st February 2023


We have seen a major change this week in the way in which information is shared with the public in relation to family cases. Mrs Justice Lieven, a Judge within the Midlands Circuit took time to explain the pilot that will allow journalists to report on Family Court proceedings.

The Transparency Reporting Pilot is a result of a review conducted by the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, looking at transparency within the Family Court. We are told that the aim is to improve the accounting and transparency and to promote the public’s confidence in the family justice system.

The Family Court unlike other areas such as the Criminal Court has always been conducted behind closed doors, the only exception to this are the cases which progress to the Court of Appeal, and this usually only happens when things have gone terribly wrong. Mrs Justice Lieven says that this practice has allowed “suspicion to grow”.

From the 30th January 2023, the pilot will be conducted at Cardiff, Carlisle and Leeds Family Courts and will initially last for one year. The pilot will see legal bloggers and accredited journalists report on Court applications, placement applications and private-law children matters that are past the 6–8-week duration.

It was made clear by Mrs Justice Lieven that there is to be no reporting on sensitive cases involving financial remedies, Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority applications, Family Law Act 1996 and Domestic Abuse Act 2021 applications. It was suggested that the pilot will help ‘improve standards’ within the Family Court because ‘everybody behaves better if they think journalists are reporting on them.’

A Transparency Order will be drawn up by the Court which will define what can and cannot be reported upon in each individual case. Whilst the anonymity of the child/children will be upheld, the journalists are able to report on what they see and hear including the names of the local authorities, legal representatives and any experts involved in the case.

The Law Society have made it clear that 'transparency and open justice are important to help the public understand how the law works and how decisions are made’. This is hoped to improve the relationship between the public and the Family Court. There has been a negative impact because of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 and the implication of that on who is eligible for Legal Aid.

BHP Law offers a free half-hour appointment for family law issues including advice and hold a Legal Aid contract. All advice is fully confidential, if you have any questions, or concerns and need support, please do get in touch and a member of our Family department would be happy to assist you.

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